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THE TALE OF A FIELD HOSPITAL 



THE TALE 



OF A 



FIELD HOSPITAL 



FREDERICK TREVES 



Surgeon Extraordinary to H.U. the Queen : Si:; rgeoi •.-in-Ordinary to H.R.If. tkt 

D::keofYork ; Consultin ■ London Hospital: 

[.ate Consulting Surgeon -zvitl: IJ.?.T. Troops in S-ttt-'i Afrtta 



W>th 14 Illustrations from Original Photographs 
Seventh Thousand 



Cassell and Company, Limited 

LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK &• MELBOURNE 



1900 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



First Editiou October 1900. 
Reprinted November 1000, December 1900. 






a 



<~- 



0£ 



Tilt 



PREFACE. 



In this little book some account is given of a field 
hospital which followed for three months the Ladysmith 
Relief Column, from the time, in fact, that that column 
left Frere until it entered the long-beleaguered town. 
The fragmentary record is based upon notes written da}'- 
by day on the spot. Some of the incidents related 
have been already recounted in a series of letters pub- 
lished in the British Medical Journal, and certain 
fragments of those letters are reproduced in these pages, 
or have been amplified under circumstances of greater 
leisure. 

The account, such as it is, is true. 
o 

It may be that the story is a little sombre, and 

e> possibly on occasions gruesome; but war, as viewed from 

the standpoint of a field hospital, presents little that is 

cheery. 

It appeared that some interest might attach to an 

account of the manner in which our wounded faced 

their troubles, and of the way in which they fared, and 

under the influence of that impression this imperfect 

sketch has been written. 



/* 4 



m°« 




TENTS. 



I. — The Field Hospital ...... 






PAGE 

1 








3 








7 


IV. — The Morning of Colenso .... 






9 








14 


VI. — Inside an Operation-Tent .... 






20 


VII. — The Surgeons of the Field Hospitals 






24 








26 


IX. — The Hospital Train at Colenso 






29 








33 








38 


XII. — The Sign of the Wooden Cross 






43 


XIII. — The Men with the Spades. 






46 








48 


XV. — Spearman's Farm ...... 






54 


XVI. — The Hospital at Spearman's 






56 








60 



CONTENT*'. 



XVIII. — After Spion Kop 
XIX. — Tub Story of the Restless Man 
XX.—" Did We Win ? " . 
XXI. — The Fighting Spirit 
XXII. — The Body Snatchers 
XXIII.— Seeing Them Off 
XXIV. — A Funeral at Spearman's 
XXV. — Absent-mindedness . 
XXVI. — At Chieveley Again 
XXVII. — A Journey to Ladysmith 
XXVIII.— A Straggler . 
XXIX. — How a Surgeon Won the Victoria Cross 
XXX. — " Sic transit gloria mundi " . 



TAGE 

63* 

07 

69 

71 

74 

77 

84 

88 

92 

95 

102 

103 

108 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



No. 4 Stationary Field Hospital at Frere . . .To face p. 2 

The Kitchen of the Field Hospital . . . . „ ,, 4 

The cross-shaped ditch cut in the ground takes the kettles according 
to the way of the wind. The ambulance train has drawn up. 

The Hospital Dog ........,,,, 8 

The Operation-Tent of No. 4 Field Hospital . . ,, „ 20 

A Hospital Train being loaded up at Frere . . . ,, „ GO 

My Waggon, Scotch Cart, and Kaffir Boys . . . „ „ 48 

The Field Hospital on the March. Outspanned at 

Pretoritjs' Farm . . . . . . . ., ,, 52 

No. 4 Field Hospital at Spearman's Farm. Surgeons 

and Nurse ........„„ 56 

An Ambulance Waggon ....... ., „ 64 

A Funeral at Spearman's „ „ 84 

A Brigade marching out at Chieveley for the Attack 

upon Pibters. Passing the Field Hospital . „ ,, 92 

" Hairy Mary " at Chieveley . ... . . . „ „ 94 

A Straggler .........,,,, 102 

The Battlefield of Colenso ......„„ 104 

In the foreground is the body of one of Col. Long's horses. To the 
1 i'_'lit is the Mimosa Grove in which the Boers hid. The flat-topped 
hill to the left is Grobler's Kloof. 



THE 



TALE OF A FIELD HOSPITAL 



t* 



i. 




HIE FIELD HOSPITAL 

HE Field Hospital, of which some account 
is given in these pages, was known as 
" No. 4 Stationary Field Hospital." The 
term "stationary" is hardly appropriate, 
since the Hospital moved with the column, 
and, until at least the relief of Lady- 
smith, it followed the Headquarters' camp. 
The term, however, serves to distinguish " No. 4 " from 
the smaller field hospitals which were attached to the 
various brigades, and Avhich were much more mobile 
and more restless. 

At the commencement of the campaign the capacity 
of the Hospital was comparatively small. The officers 
in charge were Major Kirkpatrick, Major Mallins, and 
Lieutenant Simson, all of the Koyal Army Medical 
Corps. These able officers — and none could have been 
more efficient — were, I regret to say, all invalided as 
the campaign progressed. 

Before the move was made to Spearman's Farm the 
Hospital was enlarged, and the staff was increased by 



2 THE FIELD HOSPITAL. 

the addition of eight civil surgeons It is sad to report 
that of these two died in the camp and others were 
invalided. No men could have worked better together 
than did the army surgeons and their civilian colleagues. 

The greatest capacity of the Hospital was reached after 
the battle of Spion Kop, when we had in our tents about 
800 wounded. 

Some account of the nurses who accompanied the 
Hospital is given in a section which follows. 

The Hospital was well equipped, and the supplies 
were ample. We carried with us a large number of 
iron bedsteads complete with mattresses, blankets, and 
sheets. These were all presented to the Hospital by 
Mr. Acutt, a generous merchant at Durban. It is need- 
less to say that they proved an inexpressible boon, and 
even when the Hospital had to trust only to ox trans- 
port, all the bedsteads went with it. 

The ladies of the colony, moreover, worked without 
ceasing to supply the wounded with comforts, and " No. 
4 " had reason to be grateful for their well- organised 
kindness. 

The precise number of patients who were treated in 
the Hospital is no doubt recorded in the proper quarter, 
but some idea of the work accomplished may be gained 
from the fact that practically all the wounded in the 
Natal campaign — from the battle of Colenso to the relief 
of Ladysmith — passed through No. 4 Stationary Field 
Hospital. The exceptions were represented by the few 
cases sent down direct by train or ambulance from the 
smaller field hospitals. 



No. 4 STATIONARY FIELD HOSPITAL AT 

FRERE. 

Face p. :■ 




II. 

FRERE CAMP. 

T was from Frere Camp that the army 
under General Buller started for the 
Tugela River, and the Hospital pitched 
its tents in that camp on the evening of 
Monday, December 11th, 1899. We went 
up from Pietermaritzburg by train. The 
contents of the trucks were soon emptied 
out on the line, some little way outside Frere Station, and 
close to the railway the Hospital was put up. That night 
we all slept under canvas — many for the first time — and 
all were well pleased that we had at last arrived at the 
front. 

Frere is merely a station on the line of rail which 
traverses Natal, and as it consists only of some three or 
four houses and a few trees it can hardly be dignified by 
the name of hamlet. Frere is simply a speck — a corru- 
gated iron oasis — on the vast undulating plains of the 
veldt. These plains roll away to the horizon, and are 
broken only by kopjes and dongas and the everlasting 
ant-hills. 

On the way towards Ladysmith are a few kopjes of 
large size, from any one of which the line of the Tugela 
can be seen, with the hills beyond, occupied by the Boer 



4. MERE GAMP. 

entrenchments, and over them again the hills which 
dominate Ladysmith. On the way towards Estcourt 
winds a brown road, along which an endless train of 
ox-waggons rumble and are lost in the wilderness of the 
camp. 

The river which is reputed to " run " through Frere 
lias long since ceased to run. The water is retained by 
certain dams, and the pools thus formed are uninviting. 
The water is the colour of pea-soup, and when in a glass 
is semi-opaque and of a faint brownish colour. The 
facetious soldier, as he drinks it, calls it " khaki and 
water." 

In the lowest pool, immediately above the iron railway 
bridge which has been blown up by the Boers, Tommy 
Atkins bathes with gusto in what is seemingly a light- 
coloured mud. Here also he washes his socks and his 
shirts. 

The centre of the camp is the railway station, and that 
of Frere is the smallest and most unpretending that any 
hamlet could pretend to. It is, however, crowded out of 
all reason, and its platform of hard earth is covered with 
boxes and baggage and sacks and saddles in as much 
disorder as if they had been thrown in panic from a 
burning train. Between the little goods shed and the 
little booking-office are several stands of rifles. A sentiy, 
proud apparently in his covering of dust, is parading one 
end of the platform, while at the other end a motley croAvd 
of perspiring soldiers are filling water-bottles at the tank 
which supplies the engine. In the waiting-room a tumbled 
mass of men are asleep on the floor, while on a bench 




•»n 






.^*# r 



^i 



THE KITCHEN OF THE FIELD HOSPITAL. 

The cross-shaped ditch cut in the ground takes the 
kettles according to the way of the wind. The 
amiulance train has drawn up. 

FiWi p. A. 



FREBE GAM]-. 5 

in front of it two men-of-war's men are discussing an 
English paper six weeks old. 

Outside the station are ramparts of provision boxes 
and cases of ammunition, and iron water cisterns and 
mealie bags, and to the fragments of a railing which 
surrounds the station horses, of all kinds and in all stages 
of weariness, are tied. 

A ragged time-table on the wall, dealing with the train 
service to Pretoria, and with the precise hour of the arrival 
of the trains there, seems but a sorry jest. The station- 
master's house has been looted, and the little garden in 
front of it has been trampled out of being, save for two or 
three red geraniums which still bloom amidst the dirt. 
This house is, for the time, the general's headquarters, and 
before it waves the Union Jack. 

When we reached the camp it was stated that 30,000 
men were under canvas. A camp of this size must of 
necessity present an endless scene of bustle and movement. 
Nothing seemed at rest but the interminable array of 
white tents and the rows of baggage waggons. Cavalry 
would be moving in one direction and infantry in another. 
Here a mounted patrol would be riding out or a couple of 
scouts coining in. There would be a long line of Kaffirs 
carrying bales and boxes to a temporary depot, and here 
a troop of eager horses hurrying to the river to drink. 
Gallopers would be seen in all directions, and everywhere 
would be struggling teams of oxen or of mules enveloped in 
clouds of dust and urged on by sweating men and strange 
oaths, and by the shrill yells of the Kaffir drivers, whose dust- 
dried throats gave out noises like the shrieks of parrots. 



FEEEE GAMP. 

There was no shade of any kind, and the camp during 
the day lay dry, dusty, parched and restless under a 
blazing sun, but at night there was a cool wind and cheer}* - 
camp fires, and a darkness which blotted out the dusty 
roads, the dried-up river, the dismal piles of stores, and the 
general picture of a camp in a desert of baked earth. 

Every night a search-light was at work sending 
despatches to Ladysmith, and almost every morning could 
be heard the Boer guns thundering over that unhappy 
place. 

The British soldier looked very smart in his khaki suit 
when embarking at Southampton, but at Frere he showed 
the effects of wear, and his tunic, his belt, his pouches, his 
boots and his face, had all toned down to one uniform tint 
of dirt colour. He was of the earth earthy. He was 
unshaven. His clothes had that abject look of want of 
" fit " that is common to clothes which have been slept in, 
which have been more than once soaked through, and 
which have more than once dried upon the body of the 
owner. 





III. 

THE HOSPITAL DOG. 

ROMINENT among the personnel of the 
Hospital should be placed " Durban," the 
Hospital dog. He was a brindled bull 
terrier of exceptional physique and in- 
telligence, and the story about him was 
that he was a refugee dog who had at- 
tached himself to " No. 4 " at Durban, and 
that for want of a better name he had been called after 
that pleasant town. 

He had a great love of adventure, and fell into the 
life of a moving camp with gusto. His good temper 
and his placid appreciation of a practical joke were 
among his many excellent qualities. When the orderlies 
were paraded on the platform of Pietermaritzburg Station, 
previous to their being entrained for Frere, " Durban " 
took his place in the ranks with no little dignity. 

The orderlies were devoted to him and he to them, 
and I have no doubt that, pampered and humoured in 
every canine whim, he is with the Hospital still. 

" Durban " had had a special collar made for him on 
which was emblazoned the red cross and the name of 
his company. Just before starting for Chieveley his 
particular master made him a pair of putties, in which 



8 THE HOSPITAL DOG. 

his fore legs were enveloped. He was uncommonly 
pleased with these embarrassing articles of clothing, and 
was never tired of going round the camp to show them 
to his many admirers. At Spearman's he was provided 
with a travelling kit, consisting of a waterproof cape 
with tAvo minute panniers on either side, marked with 
the red cross, and furnished with unappreciated surgical 
dressings. This exquisite outfit was with difficulty se- 
cured in position, and in the early stages of a march 
was sure to be found dangling beneath " Durban's " 
ample chest. 

His passion for bathing was only equalled by his 
passion for catching flies, and when we reached the 
Lesser Tugela he would join party after part} r on their 
way to the river, and would bathe as long and as often 
as he found anyone to bathe with. 

He was useful, too, as a watch-dog, and performed no 
mean services in connection with the commissariat de- 
partment. Some sheep were given to the Hospital, and 
for a day or two it was a problem as to how advantage 
could be taken of this important supply of food. The 
sheep, Avhen wanted for the kitchen, could not be caught, 
and could not be shot, and so " Durban " was appealed 
to in the difficulty. Accompanied by the cook, on cer- 
tain mornings " Durban " made his way to the little 
flock out on the veldt, and never failed to pull down a 
sheep. He followed the cook and the sheep back to the 
camp with the air of one who deserved well of his 
country. 




THE HOSPITAL DOQ. 



Fat\ p. 8. 



IV. 




THE MORNING OF COLENSO. 

T daybreak on the morning of December 
15th the Field Hospital was already 
astir. While it was yet dark the silence 
of the camp was broken in upon by the 
rousing of the orderlies, by much slap- 
ping upon the sides of silent tents, by 
much stumbling over darkened tent 
ropes, and by sudden calls of " Get up, you chaps," 
" Tumble out," " Chuck yourselves about." " Why don't 
you wake a man up ? " cries out one peevish voice among 
the recently roused. " Why don't you make a noise ? " 
says another, in sleepy tones. " Is the whole camp afire 
and is the Boers on us, or is this your idea of calling a 
gentleman ? " mutters a sarcastic man, as he puts his 
head out of the fly of his tent. 

In a few minutes everyone in the camp is on the move, 
for there is little needed to complete a toilet beyond the 
tightening of a belt and the pulling on of a pair of boots. 
All are in the best of spirits, and the collecting together of 
goods and chattels and the preparing of a hurried break- 
fast, proceed amidst infinite chatter and many camp 
pleasantries. 

We are at last on the move. We are the last to go. 



10 TEE MORNING OF COLENSO. 

This is the day of the long expected battle, and we are to 
push on to the front. The real fighting is to begin, and 
there is not a man who is not possessed by the conviction 
that the Boers will to-day be swept from the Tugela — if 
they have not already fled — and that General Buller will 
have a " walk over." 

One cannot but be reminded, many times since, that 
the advance to Ladysmith was always spoken of as a 
" walk over." 

Moreover, everyone is glad to leave Frere — dreary, 
sweltering Frere. Since the column left it has become a 
waste of desolation ; the very grass has been already worn 
away, and there is nothing but an expanse of bald earth, 
scarred with the landmarks of a camp that was, glistening 
with empty meat and biscuit tins which flash in the sun, 
and dotted over with a rabble of debris. The picturesque 
cavalry camp, with its rows of restless horses, is now only 
indicated by more or less formal lines of dirtier dirt. 
The avenues and squares of white tents are gone, and 
in their place is a khaki waste covered with the most 
melancholy of refuse. 

At the outskirts of great towns there is usually, in a 
place or two, a desert plot of land marked off by dis- 
reputable relics of a fence and trodden into barren earth 
by innumerable untidy feet. If such a plot be diversified 
with occasional ash heaps, with derelict straw, and with 
empty tins and bottomless pots and pans, it will represent 
in miniature the great camp of Frere after the column had 
moved to the river. 

Frere was indeed no longer Frere. It had become 



THE MORNING OF GOLENSO. 11 

suddenly quiet, and the depressed garrison left behind were 
almost too listless to watch, with suitable jealousy, our 
preparations for departure. 

On this particular morning the sun rose gloriousl}\ 
Out of the gloom there emerged rapidly the grey heights 
of the far-off Drachenbergs, and as the light of the dawn 
fell full upon them, their ashen precipices and pinnacles 
became rose-coloured and luminous ; and the terraces of 
green which marked the foot of each line of barren cliff 
seemed so near and so strangely lit, that many a man, 
busy in the work of striking camp, stopped to gaze on 
these enchanted mountains. The whole range, however, 
looks chilled and barren — as barren, as solitary, as un- 
earthly, as the mountains of the moon. 

Before the peaks of the Drachenbergs were well alight 
the boom of our great guns sounded with startling clear- 
ness, and it was evident that the prelude for the battle had 
begun. 

In due course a train of goods waggons backed down to 
the side of the hospital The tents and countless panniers, 
boxes, sacks, and miscellaneous chattels of the hospital 
were packed upon the trucks. Our instructions were to 
proceed by train to Colenso, and to there unload and camp. 
There was apparently no doubt but that the village by the 
Tugela would immediately be in our hands. Early rumours 
reached us, indeed, that the Boers had fled, and that no 
living thing was to be seen on the heights beyond the 
river. These rumours were soon to be discredited by the 
incessant roar of cannon, and later by the barking of the 
" pom-pom " and the minor patter of rifle firing. 



12 TEE MORNING OF COLENSO. 

Four nurses were to go with the train : the two who 
had accompanied me from London, Miss McCaul and Miss 
Tarr, and two army sisters from Netley, Sister Sammut 
and Sister Martin. 

While the train was being loaded the nurses waited at 
the hotel or store. The hotel, a little unpretending bunga- 
low, represented one of the three or four dwellings which 
made up the settlement of Frere. It was kept by Mr. and 
Mrs. Wilson, to whose hospitality we were, on this and other 
occasions, much indebted. Mr. Wilson and his family were 
excellent representatives of the many sturdy and loyal 
colonists who are to be found throughout Natal. When 
the Boers approached Frere they were compelled to fly to 
the south, and when they returned to what had once been 
a home, they found such a wreck of a house as only Boers 
can effect. Everything had been looted that could be 
looted, and what could not be removed had been ruthlessly 
broken up. Even the books in the ample book-case had 
been torn to pieces. The empty rooms were filled with 
filth and wreckage, and nothing had escaped the obscene 
hands of these malicious marauders. Every cupboard had 
been torn open and, if possible, torn down ; every drawer 
had been rifled of its contents ; and on the floor, among 
fragments of broken chairs and crockery and discarded 
articles of clothing, would be found a photograph of a child, 
trampled out of recognition, or some small keepsake which 
had little value but its associations. The Boers, indeed, do 
not stop at mere looting, but mark their visits by fiendish 
malice and by a savage mischievousness which would not 
be unworthy of an escaped baboon. 



THE MORNING OF COLENSO. 1:5 

The train carrying the hospital and its possessions 
moved on to Frere Station, where it took up the equip- 
ment of officers and men. There was a passenger carriage 
with one compartment, in which were accommodated the 
nurses and three others. The officers, sergeants, and 
orderlies rode on the piles of baggage which filled the open 
trucks. 

The day was blazing hot, and thirst proportionate. The 
heat oppressed one with the sense of something that had 
weight. Any breeze that moved was heavy with heat. 

At last we started for the actual front, full of expect- 
ancy and in the best of spirits. The distance to Chieve- 
ley is about seven miles across the veldt, across the 
trestle bridge, and past the wreck of the armoured train. 
The train moved up the incline to Chieveley very slowly 
and as we approached the higher ground it struck us 
all that the incessant artillery and rifle firing, and the 
constantly repeated crack of the " pom-pom," were hardly 
consistent with the much-emphasised " walk-over." 

Outside Chieveley Station, the station of which we 
were to see so much later on, the crawling train stopped, 
and a galloper came up with a message requesting me 
to go down to the battlefield at once. At the same 
time Major Brazier-Creagh, who was in charge of the 
hospital train, and who was always as near the front 
as he could get, came up and told us that things were 
going badly at Colenso, that we had lost several guns, 
and that the wounded were cominGr in in scores. 



u 




V. 

THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE RIDGE. 

Y waggon and mules were already at 
Chieveley when the train reached that 
place, and I was able to start for the 
scene of action without a moment's 
delay. 

From Chieveley the grass-covered 
veldt slopes evenly to the Tugela and 
to Colenso village, which lies upon its southern bank. 
This slope, some few miles from Chieveley, is broken 
by a long ridge, upon which the 47 naval guns were 
placed. From this ridge the whole battlefield could 
be viewed. 

Under shelter of the ridge, and close to the great 
guns, four little field hospitals were pitched, and here I 
made my first acquaintance with the circumstances of 
war. Each field hospital would be represented by a 
small central marquee, which formed an operating and 
dressing station, and a number of bell tents around it, 
which could accommodate, in all, about one hundred 
patients. 

When I arrived the ambulances were already coming 
in — the dreary ambulances, each one with a load of 
suffering, misery, and death ! Each waggon was drawn 



THE HOSI'ITAL UNDER THE RIDGE. L5 

by ten mules and driven by a Kaffir, and over the dusty 
hood of each the red cross flag waved in the shimmering 
heat. They came along slowly, rocking and groaning 
over the uneven veldt, like staggering men, and each 
drew up at one or other of the little hospitals under the 
ridge. Every ambulance carried a certain number of 
wounded men who were well enough to sit up, and a 
smaller number who were lying on stretchers — the "sit- 
ting up " and " lying down " cases, as they were respec- 
tively called. Those who could move themselves were 
soon helped down from the waggon by willing hands, 
while the stretchers were taken out by relays of trained 
bearers. 

What a spectacle it was ! These were the very khaki- 
clad soldiers who had, not so long ago, left Waterloo, 
spick and span, amid a hurricane of cheers, and now 
they were coming back to camp silent and listless, and 
scarcely recognisable as men. They were burnt a brown 
red by the sun, their faces were covered with dust and 
sweat, and were in many cases blistered by the heat ; 
their hands were begrimed ; some were without tunics, 
and the blue army shirts they wore were stiff with blood. 
Some had helmets and some were bare-headed. All 
seemed dazed, weary, and depressed. 

Their wounds were of all kinds, and many had been 
shot in more places than one. Here was a man nursing 
a shattered arm in the blood-stained rags of a torn-up 
sleeve. There was another with his head bandaged up and 
his face painted with black streaks of dried blood, holding a 
crushed helmet beneath his arm like a collapsible opera hat. 



16 THE HOSPITAL UXDEB THE TJBGE. 

Some still gripped their rifles, or dragged tlieir bando- 
liers along as they limped to the tents. Many were 
wandering about aimlessly. All were parched with thirst 
for the heat was extreme. Here a man with a bandaged, 
bootless foot would be hopping along with the aid of his 
gun, while another with his eyes covered up would be 
clinging to the tunic of a comrade who could see his way 
to the tents. One or two of those who were lying on 
the ground were vomiting, while near by a poor fellow, 
who had been shot through the lung, was coughing up 
blood. 

All around the operation-marquee men were sitting 
and lying on the ground, waiting for their turn at the 
surgeon's hands ; while here would be a great heap of 
dusty rifles, and there a pile of discarded accoutrements, 
tunics and boots, and elsewhere a medley of boxes, 
panniers, canteen tins, cooking pots, and miscellaneous 
baggage. A few helmets were lying about which had 
probably dropped off the stretchers, or had been removed 
from the dead, for some of them were blood-stained and 
crushed out of shape, or riddled with holes. 

The saddest cases among the wounded were those on 
the stretchers, and the stretchers were lying on the 
ground everywhere, and on each was a soldier who had 
been "hard hit." Some of those on the stretchers were 
already dead, and some kindly hand had drawn a jacket 
over the poor dust-stained face. One or two were de- 
lirious, and had rolled off their stretchers on to the 
ground ; others were strangely silent, and at most were 
trying to shade their eyes from the blinding sun. One 



THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE MDGM 17 

man, who was paralysed below the waist from a shot in 
the spine, was repeatedly raising up his head in order 
to look with persisting wonder and curiosity at limbs 
which he could not move and in which he could not 
feel. Here and there groups of dusty men, who had 
been but slightly wounded, were sitting on the ground 
together, too tired and too depressed even to talk, or 
at most muttering a word or two, now and then, in a 
whisper. 

Overworked orderlies were busy everywhere. Some 
were heating water or soup over the camp lires ; others 
were hurrying round to each wounded man with water 
and bread. The majority were occupied in helping the 
injured to the tents or were concerned in attempting to 
relieve those who seemed in most distress. 

The surgeons in their shirt-sleeves were working for 
their lives. Some were busy in the operation-marquee, 
while others were going from man to man among the 
crowd upon the ground, giving morphia, adjusting limbs, 
and hurrying each of the wounded into the shelter of a 
tent with as much speed as possible. Yet, although the 
whole ground seemed covered with stricken men, the 
dismal ambulances were still crawling in, and far over the 
veldt the red cross flag of other waggons could be seen 
moving slowly up to the naval ridge. 

Would this procession of waggons never end ! 

Besides the ambulances there was the Volunteer 

Bearer Company, organised by Colonel Gallwey, C.B. The 

men of this Company were now tramping in, in a long, 

melancholy line made up of little groups of six slowly- 

c 



18 THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE KIDGE. 

moving figures carrying a stretcher between them, and on 
each stretcher was a khaki mass, that rocked as the 
stretcher rocked, and that represented a British soldier 
badly wounded, possibly dying, possibly dead. 

Above the hubbub of the swarming hospitals was still 
to be heard the boom of the accursed o-uns. 

In the rear the whistle and puff of a train at Chieveley 
sounded curiously out of place, and about the outskirts 
of the hospital some outspanned oxen were grazing as 
unconcernedly as if they were wandering in a meadow in 
England. Over all was the blazing sun and the blinding 
sky. 

Late in the afternoon a thunderstorm passed overhead, 
and when the rain came down the wounded, who were 
lying on the grass, were covered over with the Avaterproof 
ground-sheets which were used in the tents. This did 
little to mitigate the grimness of the occasion. There 
was, indeed, something very uncanny in the covered-up 
figures, in the array of tarpaulins glistening with rain, 
and beneath which some of the wounded lay motionless, 
while others moved uneasily. 

No pen, however, can fitly describe this scene at the 
foot of the ridge. Here was a picture of the horrors of 
war, and however accustomed an onlooker may have 
been with the scenes among which a surgeon moves, few 
could have wished other than that the circumstances of 
this day would be blotted out of all memory. I could 
not fail to be reminded, over and over again, of the 
remark made by many who were leaving England when 
I left, to the effect that they hoped they would reach 



THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE RIDGE. 19 

the Cape " in time for the fun." Well, we were in time, 
but if this was "fun" it was humour of a kind too ghastly 
for contemplation. 

If of this dismal scene there was much to be forgotten, 
there was at least one feature which can never be forgot, 
and that was the heroism with which the soldier met his 
"ill luck." The best and the worst of a man, so far as 
courage and unselfishness are concerned, come out when 
he is hard hit, and without doubt each one of the wounded 
at Colenso " took his licking like a man." Bravery in 
the heat and tumult of battle is grand enough, but here 
in the dip behind the gun hill, and within the unromantic 
linos of a field hospital, was a display of grim pluck, 
which showed itself only in tightened faces, clenched 
teeth, and firmly knit fingers. Among the stricken crowd 
who had reached the shelter of the hospital there was 
many a groan, but never a word of complaint, never a 
sign of whining, nor a token of fear. Some were a little 
disposed to curse, and a few to be jocular, but they all 
faced what had to be like men. 

They were not only uncomplaining and unselfish, but 
grateful and reasonable. There was no grumbling (no 
" grousing," as Tommy calls it), no carping criticism. 
As one man said, pointing to the over-worked surgeons 
in the operation-tent, " They will do the best they can 
for the blooming lot of us, and that's good enough for 
me." 



20 



VI. 



IWSIDE AX OPERATION-TENT 



Y'f- 


fe^^i 


1 i ■>• ii 

m. 

1 -ft C 


i 


- — - .j 



|HERE were four operation-marquees 
pitched under the naval ridge on the 
day of Colenso, one connected with each 
of the field hospitals. There is little 
about these marquees or about the work 
done in the shadow of them that is of 
other than professional interest. They 
were crowded, and over-crowded, on December 15th, and 
the surgeons who worked in them worked until they 
were almost too tired to stand. Every preparation had 
been completed hours before the first wounded man 
arrived, and the equipment of each hospital was ample 
and excellent. To my thinking, a great surgical emergency, 
great beyond any expectation, was never more ably met 
than was this on the day of the first battle. 

The marquee is small. It accommodates the opera- 
tion table in the centre between the two poles, while 
along the sides are ranged the field panniers which 
serve as tables for instruments and dressings. 

It is needless to say that the operation-tent is very 
unlike an operating-theatre in a London hospital, but 
then the open veldt is very unlike the Metropolis. The 
floor of the tent is much-trodden grass, and, indeed, much- 





t 








/ 3 




/~ ""• '"gl 9J&' 




■HhI 







THE OPERATION -TENT OF No. 4 FIELD 

HOSPITAL. 

Face p. 20. 



INSIDE AN 0PERATI0N-T1 21 

stained grass, for what drips upon it cannot be wiped 
up. There are no bright brass water-taps, but there is 
a brave display of buckets and tin basins. Water is 
precious, more precious than any other necessity, for 
every drop has to be brought by train from Frere. 

There is little room in the tent for others than the 
surgeon, his assistant, the anaesthetist, and a couple of 
orderlies. The surgeon is in his shirt-sleeves, and his 
dress is probably completed by riding breeches and a 
helmet. The trim nurses, with their white caps and 
aprons, who form the gentlest element in the hospital 
theatre, are replaced by orderlies, men with burnt sienna 
complexions and unshaven chins, who are clad in the 
unpicturesque army shirt, in shorts, putties, and the 
inevitable helmet or "squasher" hat. They are, however, 
strong in the matter of belts, which vary from a leather 
strap or piece of string to an elaborate girdle, worked, 
no doubt, by the hands of some cherished maiden. 
From the belt will probably be hanging a big knife or 
a tin-opener, in place of the nurse's chatelaine, and from 
the breeches pocket may be projecting the bowl of a 
pipe. The orderly in a field hospital — who is for the 
most part a " good sort " — looks a little like one of the 
dramatis personcc of Bret Harte's tales, and is a curious 
substitute for the immaculate dresser and the dainty nurse. 

Still, appearances do not count for much, and the 
officers and men of the Royal Army Medical Corps did 
as sterling good work on December 15th as any body 
of men could do, and they were certainly not hampered 
by the lack of a precise professional garb. 



22 INSIDE AN OPERATION-TENT. 

The wounded are brought into the marquee one by 
one. Not all are cases for operation, but all have to be 
examined, and an examination is more easily carried 
out on a table than on a stretcher or the bare ground. 
Moreover, to make the examination painless, an 
anaesthetic is usually required. I wonder how much 
chloroform and morphia were used on that day, and on 
the night and day that followed ! The drugs would fill 
one scale of a balance in the other scale of which would 
be found the dull weight of pain they were destined to 
obliterate. The horrors of war are to some small extent 
to be measured by the lists of the wounded and the 
dead, but a more graphic representation would be pro- 
vided by the hideous total of the drops of chloroform 
and the grains of morphia which have come from the 
surgeon's store. 

The flies of the operation-marquee are wide open, for 
the heat is intense, and access must be easy. As it is, 
there is much mopping of brows and many " pulls " of 
dirty lukewarm water from precious water-bottles. Un- 
happily the scenes within the shadow of the canvas 
cannot be quite hidden from those who are lying in the 
sun outside waiting their turn. As one man after 
another is carried in there is sure to be some comrade 
on the ground who will call out as the stretcher goes 
by : " Keep yer chivey up, Joe " ; " Don't be down on your 
luck " ; " They will do you a treat " ; " Good luck to yer, 
old cock, you won't feel nothing." 

One instance of the limited capacity of the marquee 
I may be pardoned for recounting. The amputation of a 



IN8TDE AN OPEUATION-TENT. s.\ 

leg was in progress when the pressure of work was at 
its height. Beneath the table at the time of the opera- 
tion was the prostrate figure of a man. He had been 
shot through the face. His big moustache was clotted 
with blood, his features were obliterated by dust and 
blood, his eyes were shut, and his head generally was 
enveloped in bandages. I thought he was dead, and 
that in the hurry of events he was merely awaiting re- 
moval. The limb after amputation was unfortunately 
dropped upon this apparently inanimate figure when, to 
my horror, the head was raised and the eyes were 
opened to ascertain the nature of the falling body. This 
poor fellow was attended to as soon as the table was 
free. I was glad to see him some weeks after in the 
Assembly Hotel at Pietermaritzburg, hearty and well. 
He was a gallant officer in a Natal regiment, and when 
I recalled this gruesome incident to him, he owned that, 
feeble as he was at the time, it gave him a " shake up." 




•u 



VII. 




THE SURGEONS OF THE FIELD HOSPITALS. 

\ MONG the many officers of the R.A.M.C. 
I must confess that nry strongest sym- 
pathies are with those who are in charge 
of the little field hospitals. These handy 
hospitals have their own transport, and 
move with the various brigades or divi- 
sions. The officers who command them 
have little comfort, little rest, the least luxurious mess, 
and the hardest of work. They bear the brunt of the 
campaign so far as the medical and surgical needs of 
the Army are concerned. They must be always ready, 
always at hand, prepared to be full of patients one day 
and to be empty the next ; and those whose lives are 
spent with them can certainly claim that they have " no 
abiding city." 

The officers in charge of these hospitals are picked 
men, but as sound experience is necessary they are often 
men who are no longer young, and Avho may claim that 
they have already had their share of roughing it. They 
are, perhaps, more than any others, the most exposed to 
criticism. If anything goes wrong at the front a large 
proportion of the blame falls upon them, and if all goes 
well their names appear in no roll of honour. 



THE SURGEON* OF TEE FIELD HOSPITALS. 25 

No surgeon who saw these men could be other than 
proud that he belonged to the same profession as they did. 
Of their work at Colenso, at Spearman's Farm, and before 
Pieters I can only say that it was, to my thinking, a credit 
to the medical department of any army. 




26 




VIII. 

A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY RAIL. 

ITER a busy afternoon among the field 
hospitals under the naval ridge, I returned 
in the evening to Chieveley, in the hope, 
now that the bulk of the work was over, 
of getting something to eat. I had not 
been at Chieveley long when an orderly 
arrived with a letter to tell me that 
Lieutenant Roberts had been brought in wounded, and to 
ask me to go back to the naval hill at once. It was now 
dark, and I had at that time no horse. However, the 
hospital train was standing in the station, and to the 
fertile brain of Major Brazier- Creagh, who was in charge 
of the train, it occurred that we might detach the engine 
and go down on it to the ridge, since the field hospitals 
were close to the railway. 

There was the difficulty, however, that the line was a 
single line, and a water train had already steamed down 
to the ridge and was expected back at any moment. It 
was the simple problem of an engine on the one hand, and 
of a train on the other, proceeding in different directions 
at night on a single line of rail. 

The case being urgent, the engine was detached and 
we started. Major Brazier-Creagh and Captain Symonds 



A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY RAIL. 27 

came with me. It so happened that we went tender first. 
The railway line appeared to us to go up and down with 
many undulations, and at the top of each rise Ave expected 
to meet the water train. Fortunately the moon was 
coming up, and the blackness which oppressed us was 
lading a little. We proceeded slowly, with much whistling 
and considerable waving of a red lamp. At last there was 
made out the dim outline of the water train coming 
towards us at a fair speed. We stopped, and there were 
redoubled efforts in the direction of whistling, lamp waving, 
and shouting. These exhibitions had an immediate effect 
upon the water train, which, after some hysterical whistling, 
stopped, and backed promptly out of sight. The driver 
told us afterwards that he thought a whole train was 
coming down upon him at full speed, and that he might 
well have backed down into Colenso. 

We got out some way above the ridge and walked on to 
the field hospital I had so lately left. The gallant officer 
1 came to see was comfortably bestowed in a tent, was 
quite free from pain and anxiety, and was disposed to 
sleep. From a surgical point of view the case was hopeless, 
and had been hopeless from the first, and no idea of an 
operation could be entertained. Our examination and our 
discussion of the case with Major Hamilton, R.A.M.C, 
under whose care the patient was, occupied some time, and 
the engine had long since gone back to Chieveley. There 
was nothing to be done but to sleep on the ground in the 
open, and this we proceeded to do, lying down on the grass 
outside the tent we had just visited. There was no hard- 
ship in this, as it was a splendid night, and the full moon 



2» 



A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY UAH. 



had risen and had flooded the whole country with a 
spectral light. 

As if by magic the restless, hurrying, motley crowd of 
the earlier day had vanished. A cool breeze and pleas- 
ant shadows had replaced the heat and the glare of the 
sun; a gentle silence had blotted out the noise and the 
turmoil; and of the scene of the afternoon there was 
nothing left but the white tents gleaming in the moon, 
the open veldt, and the shadow of the ridge. 




IX. 




THE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT COLENSO. 

[HE battle of Colenso was fought on Friday, 
December 15th, and on Saturday, the 
16th, an armistice Avas declared for the 
burying of the dead. Very early on 
Saturday morning, while it was yet moon- 
light, the hospital train backed down from 
Chieveley and came to a stand as near 
the field hospitals as possible. As soon as it was day- 
light (and at this time of the summer the sun rose before 
rive) the loading of the train commenced. 

The rilling up of a hospital train is no easy business, 
and affords a somewhat depressing sight. 

The worst cases are dealt with first, and a lone 1 line 
of stretchers soon began to pour from the hospital tents 
to the railway. The stretchers are put down on the rail- 
road close to the wheels of the train. On this particu- 
lar morning it so happened that the carriages threw a 
shadow on the side of the line towards the hospital, so 
that the stretchers, if near the metals, were in the 
shade. 

Many of the wounded had had no sleep, and many 
were developing some degree of fever. A lew had be- 
come delirious, and were difficult to control. With the 



30 THE HOSPITAL TEA IX AT GOLENSO. 

stretcher parties would come a certain number of such 
of the wounded as could walk, and very soon a not in- 
considerable crowd was gathered in the shade of the 
train. 

But what a crowd ! The same sunburnt men with 
blistered faces, but now even a more motley gathering than 
tilled the field hospitals the day before — a gathering 
made piteously picturesque by khaki rags, blue band- 
ages, casual splints, arm slings, e}^e bandages, slit-up 
trousers, and dressings of all kinds. Here they came 
crowding to the train, some limping, some hopping, some 
helped along between two stronger comrades, some stag- 
gering on alone. A man with a damaged arm assisting 
a man with a bullet through his leg. A man stopping 
on the way to be sick, cheered up by another with a 
bandaged eye. 

An untidy, sorrowful crowd, with unbuttoned tunics 
and slovenly legs, with unlaced boots, with blood on their 
khaki jackets and on their blue shirts and on their 
stiffening dressings. The gentle hand of the nurse had 
not as yet busied itself with this unkempt and unwashed 
throng. There had been no time for washing nor for 
changing of garments, and if the surgeon has had to cut 
the coat and the shirt into rags, the wearer must wear the 
rags or nothing : and as for washing, it is a sin to wash 
when water is priceless. 

The greater number of those who come to the railway 
line are carried there on stretchers, but all who are well 
enough to take any interest in the journey are eager not 
to miss a place in the train. 




A HOSPITAL TRAIN BEING LOADED UP AT 

FRERE. 

Face p. 30. 



THE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT GOLENSO. 

The business of getting the " lying down " cases into 
the carriages is considerable, and everybody lends a hand, 
the surgeons being the most active of any. The berths 
in the train are placed one above the other, and the 
room for manipulating stretchers is small. The equip- 
ment of the train was very complete, and every luxury 
was at hand, from hot soup to iced "lemon-squash," and 
even to champagne. Many generous ladies in the Colony 
had seen that the train should want for nothing, and 
Major Brazier-Creagh took as much pride in his travelling 
hospital as if he had built it himself. 

Innumerable instances came under my notice of the 
unselfishness of the soldier, and of his solicitude for his 
friends in distress. It was by the side of this hospital 
train that occurred an episode I have recorded elsewhere, 
and which may well be described again. An orderly was 
bringing some water to a wounded man lying on the 
ground near me. He was shot through the abdomen, 
and he could hardly speak owing to the diyness of his 
mouth, but he said : " Take it to my pal first, he is worse 
hit than me." This generous lad died next morning, but 
his pal got through and is doing well. 

Another poor fellow, who was much troubled with 
vomiting, and who was indeed d}dng, said, as he was 
being hoisted into the train, " Put me in the lower berth, 
because I keep throwing up." How many people troubled 
merely with sea-sickness would be as thoughtful as he 
was ? He died not long after we reached Chieveley. 

Lieutenant Roberts, whom I had visited at intervals, 
went up by this train, and was placed in No. 4 Field 



32 TEE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT GOLEKSO. 

Hospital at Chieveley. Here a bedstead, with a comfort- 
able mattress and white sheets, was waiting ready for 
him. 

As the train moved off it was sad to note that a few 
who had been brought down to the rail in the hope of a 
place being found for them, had to be left behind, and 
had to be carried back to the tents to await some other 
means of transport. 




33 




X. 
THE HUMES AT CHIEVELEV. 

HE train which brought up No. 4 Field 
Hospital from Frere was stopped, as I 
have already said, at Chieveley. The 
tents and baggage were thrown out, and 
with as much haste as possible the 
hospital was pitched on the open ground, 
close to the station. Before, however, 
any more than a few tents could be put up the wounded 
began to arrive. They came in all Friday evening, and 
all Saturday, and all Saturday evening. The field hospitals 
by the naval hill had soon been filled, and all cases 
that could be sent on to Chieveley were sent there, while 
as many as could go at once to the base were taken 
down by the hospital train. 

Saturday was a day of truce, but at sundown on 
Saturday not only had all the wounded to be cleared 
out from the field hospitals, but those hospitals them- 
selves had to move, as, with the renewal of hostilities, 
they would be in a place of danger. Chieveley was 
therefore soon filled to overflowing. 

There were three army surgeons with " No. 4 " whose 
names I have already mentioned. They were reinforced 

D 



U THE NURSES AT CHIEVELEY. 

by a small field hospital under the charge of Major Baird 
and Captain Begbie. 

Some of the wounded came up by train, and some by 
ambulances or by waggons, but a very large proportion, 
a proportion which included nearly all the serious cases, 
were carried up on stretchers by hand. No mode of 
transport is more comfortable than this, or is less fatiguing 
to the patient, and the splendid organisation of volunteer 
bearers and of coolie carriers enabled this means of 
bringing up the wounded to be very largely made use 
of. Certainly the stretcher-bearers were the means of 
saving lives, and of sparing those they carried an infinite 
amount of pain. 

As seen at night the procession up to Chieveley was 
doleful and mysterious. The long line of silent men 
moving in clusters, each cluster with a stretcher and a 
body in its midst. Stealing slowly and cautiously over 
the veldt in the moonlight they all made for the two 
white lights which swung over the hospital by the station. 

The coolies carried their stretchers shoulder high, so 
that the body of the man they bore was lit fitfully by 
the moon as they passed along with absolutely noiseless 
feet. The coolies themselves added no little to the un- 
canny spectacle, for in the shadow beneath the stretcher 
stalked a double row of thin bare legs, and by the poles 
of the stretcher were the white or coloured turbans that 
these men affect ; while here and there a sleek black head 
glistened in the light. 

There was but one house at Chieveley — the station- 
master's house. It had been effectually looted after the 



THE NURSES AT OHIEVELEY. 35 

Boer fashion, but it would have done well as a resting- 
place for the four nurses who came up with the hospital. 
The house, however, had been taken possession of, and 
the nurses had to contemplate either a night in the open 
or in the waiting-room at the station. As this latter 
room had been used as a stable by the Boers, it was 
not in much request. It served, however, as a place 
for the depositing of personal baggage and for the pre- 
paring of such food as it was possible to prepare — chiefly, 
indeed, for the making of tea. 

The question of where to sleep was soon solved by the 
necessities of the position. These ill-housed women, as a 
matter of fact, were hard at work all Friday, all Saturday, 
and all Saturday night. They seemed oblivious to fatigue, 
to hunger, or to any need for sleep. Considering that the 
heat was intense, that the thirst which attended it was 
distressing and incessant, that water was scarce, and that 
the work in hand was heavy and trying, it was wonderful 
that they came out of it all so little the worse in the end. 

Their ministrations to the wounded were invaluable and 
beyond all praise. They did a service during those dis- 
tressful days which none but nurses could have rendered, 
and they set to all at Chieveley an example of unselfishness, 
self-sacrifice, and indefatigable devotion to duty. They 
brought to many of the wounded and the dying that 
comfort which men are little able to evolve, or are uncouth 
in bestowing, and which belongs especially to the tender, 
undefined and undefinable ministrations of women. 

The English soldier is as sensible of attention and as 
appreciative of sympathy and kindness as is any other man 



3t> TEE NURSES AT GHIEVELEY. 

who is at the mercy of circumstances, and I can well be- 
lieve that there are many soldiers — some of them now in 
England, crippled for life — who will long keep green the 
memory of the sisters at Chieveley. 

Some weeks after Colenso I was at Pietermaritzburg, 
and was looking up in the hospital wards certain cases 
which had been attended to in " No. 4." Among them was 
a paralysed man to whom one of the nurses had been very 
kind at Chieveley. I found him comfortably bestowed, but 
he was possessed of a handkerchief the extreme dirtiness of 
which led me to suggest that, as he was now in a centre of 
luxury, he should ask for a clean one. To which he re- 
plied, " I am not going to give this one up ; I am afraid of 
losing it. The sister who looked after me at Chieveley gave 
it to me, and here is her name in the corner." 

As the truce was over on Saturday, and as the Boers 
might assume the aggressive and shell Chieveley and its 
helpless colony, the order was given to break up the 
hospital and get all the wounded away by train, and to 
retire with the tents and equipment to Frere. This was 
done on Sunday morning. 

As soon as the wounded had left — and it was no light 
matter getting them away — it was thought desirable that 
the women should be at once got out of danger, and so 
they were bundled down to Frere with little ceremony in 
a mule waggon. As they had no hospital to go to (for 
" No. 4 " did not arrive until the small hours of the 
following morning) they took refuge in the hotel at Frere. 
They had some food with them, albeit it was not of a kind 
to attract the fastidious, and the four of them slept on the 



THE NURSES AT CEIEVELEY. 37 

floor of a looted and empty room, which even the kindly 
heart of Mrs. Wilson could not render other than a dreary 
resting place. This was their only "night in" in three 
days. 

I had, I am bound to confess, the advantage of them 
in the matter of ventilation, for I slept in a waggon. 




38 



XL 



SOME TRAITS IN THE MEN. 




S I have already said, the wounded took 
their turn of "hard luck" like men. A 
few were sullen, a few relieved their 
feelings by fluent but meaningless pro- 
fanity, in which the Boers were cursed 
with as much thoroughness as was the 
Jackdaw of Rheims. The majority were 
silent or said little. The tendency of most of the men 
was to make the least of their wounds, and some of those 
who were the worst hit were the most cheery. They were, 
with scarcely an exception, unselfish, and were singularly 
patient, considering that the exercise of patience is not 
a marked quality in men. 

They ministered to one another's wants with a tender 
solicitude which was not marred by the occasional nn- 
couthness of its method. There was a widespread belief 
that tobacco was a panacea for all ills, and any man who 
had the wherewithal to smoke shared the small luxury 
with his mates. If there was only one pipe in a tent it 
was kept circulating. One would see a man on one 
stretcher trying to arrange a pillow for a comrade on the 
next : the pillow in question being commonly made out 
of a squashed helmet with a boot inside it. The man 



SOME TBAIT8 IN THE ME* 30 

in any tent who was the least disabled was never so 
well pleased as when he was given something to do for 
those who were under the same canvas with him. With 
a pannikin and a spoon he would feed those who could 
not feed themselves until they were glad to be rid of 
the attention ; or he would readjust a dressing, or cut 
off a boot, or get the dried blood from an exposed surface 
with a never-wearying anxiety. 

With few exceptions the men were honestly anxious 
" not to give trouble." It was an article of faith with 
them to " take their turn," and no man would try to 
make out that his case gave him a claim for attention 
over his fellows. Indeed, on the occasion of a visit, 
the occupants of a tent were eager with one voice to 
point out what they considered to be the worst case, and 
to claim for it the earliest notice. The men of a tent 
were, in the kindliest way, a little proud of having a 
" real bad " case in their midst. When the curtain of 
a tent is up the occupants whose heads are nearest to 
the tent ropes can easily converse with those who are 
similarly placed in the adjoining tent. Thus I heard 
one man on the ground, whose head was nearly in the 
open, call out to another head just in view on the floor 
of the next tent : " We've a real hot 'un in along: with 
us ; he's got 'it through the lungs and the liver both, 
and the doctor has been in to him three times." To 
which the other head replied : " That's nothing to a 
bloke in here. He's been off his chump all night; his 
language has been a fair treat, and he's had four fits. 
We've had a night I don't think ' " 



K) SOME TRAITS IN THE MEN. 

Another article of faith with the soldier takes the 
form of a grim stoicism under pain. Some of the 
wounded endured the examination of their wounds with 
Spartan pluck. They seemed to consider it above all 
things essential that they should not cry out "until 
they were obliged." One enormous Irishman with a 
shattered thigh yelled out in agony as he was being 
lifted upon the operating table to be examined. The 
pain was evidently terrible and excuse enough for any 
degree of exclamation. But he apologised quaintly and 
profusely for the noise he made, urging as an excuse 
that " he had never been in a hospital before." He ex- 
pressed his regret much as a man would do who had 
wandered into a church with his hat on and who ex- 
cused himself on the ground that he had never been in 
a church before. 

Every patient took a lively interest in his own case, 
and especially in the removal of any bullet which may 
have lodged in any part of him. One ruddy youngster, 
a Devonshire lad, had had a shrapnel bullet through his 
leg, and the bullet could be felt, on the side opposite to 
the point of entry, under the unbroken skin. He begged 
that it should be taken out without chloroform, as he 
wanted to see it come out and to keep it and take it 
home. He sat up with his back against the tent pole 
during the operation, and watched the cutting out of 
the lead without a murmur. No doubt this Boer missile 
will find a place in a corner cupboard in some cottage 
among the delectable villages of Devon, and will be for 
long the wonder and admiration of devoted women folk. 



SOME TRAITS IN TUB MEN. 41 

Among other traits one notices that the soldier clings 
with great pertinacity to his few possessions, and 
especially to his boots. When the haversack has been 
lost, and when the tunic has been cut up to make its 
removal more easy, or left behind because it is too 
blood-stained, there is little remaining in which the 
owner may bestow his goods unless it be in his boots. 
There was one poor man I remember at Spearman's, 
who was in great distress because, just as he was being 
sent down to the base, he had lost his solitary boot. He 
said it contained a puttie, a tin of jam, two shillings in 
money, and a bullet that had been taken out of him. 
These are no mean possessions. 

The puttie also is not lightly discarded. If not used 
as a gaiter it is useful for many other purposes, and 
especially is it considered well to wind it round the 
abdomen as a cholera belt, for the soldier has great 
faith in anything in the way of a belt. 

When the men were bathing together in hundreds 
at Springfield, there was an opportunity of seeing such 
variety in the matter of abdominal belts as could never 
have been dreamed of. Some of these favoured garments 
were mere shreds and rags, and were worn probably in 
order to keep faith with some good soul at home who 
had made her boy promise he would never leave off his 
belt. Other binders were undoubtedly home-made, and 
the work of anxious mothers and wives who believed in 
red flannel and plenty of it. Some of the belts were 
knitted and were made to be pulled on, but they had 
shrunk so much from repeated wettings and had become 



« 



80ME TRAITS IN THE MEN. 



so infantile in their proportions that the owner of the 
garment had to get at least one comrade to help him 
pull it over his hips. When it was at last in place it 
quite constricted the body, and justified the comment of 
one bather who exclaimed to his belted but otherwise 
naked friend : " Well, ye've got a waist on ya, if nothink 
else ! " 





13 




XII. 
THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS. 

FTER Colenso, No. 4 Stationary Field 
Hospital returned to the same quarters 
at Frere, and at Frere we remained until 
January 13th, 1900, nearly a month. The 
wounded who fell on the unhappy 15th 
of December had been satisfactorily 
disposed of, thanks to the admirable 
arrangements made by the Principal Medical Officer, 
Colonel Gallwey, C.B. Not a single wounded man was 
left out on the field on the night of the battle. On 
that particular Friday every man had been attended 
to before midnight, and on the following Sunday all 
the wounded who had fallen on the 15 th were comfort- 
ably housed in one or other of the hospitals at the 
base. 

Our tents, although emptied of the wounded, soon 
began to be filled up with cases of sickness, and 
especially with cases of dysentery. Those who presented 
the slightest forms of the disease could be.. sent down 
to the base, but when the type was severe the patient 
did better with as little movement as possible. Those, 
therefore, who remained in our lines represented a large 
proportion of examples of serious illness. 



44 THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS. 

Provisions were ample, medical necessities abundant, 
and the ladies of the Colony were infinitely kind in 
forwarding to Frere comforts of all sorts. Our tents 
were by no means filled, and yet, in spite of what may 
be considered favourable circumstances, there were a 
good many deaths. 

Deaths mean the need for burial, and a little bury- 
ing ground was marked off in the rear of the hospital, 
close to the railway line. As weeks went by the little 
enclosure needed enlargement, and so the engineers 
came and fenced it round afresh with a wire paling, 
and gave it a fit aspect of formality. The names of the 
dead were indicated on tablets of wood, and now and 
then the comrades of a man, or the survivors of the 
tent he died in, would erect over the mound a wooden 
cross. 

These crosses were made usually out of provision 
boxes, or perhaps from a whisky case, and many were 
very admirably finished and very cleverly carved, and 
many were curious of design. They represented long 
hours spent in tedious hacking at a tough slab of wood 
with a pocket knife, and, after that, infinite patience in 
the cutting out of the letters of the dead chum's name. 
Finish would be given to the lettering by means of a 
tin-opener. 

These crosses will be found all over the land of the 
war. Few of them will long survive the wind and the 
rain and the blistering sun, and the hand of the Kaffir 
who is lacking of fuel. So long, however, as they dot 
the solitary veldt they will be symbols of the tenderest 



THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS. 4S 

spirit of good comradeship, of the kindly heart of men 
who are supposed to be little imbued with sentiment, 
and of that loyal affection for his friend which is not 
among the least of the qualities of the British soldier. 

Here and there some elaborate monuments with some 
promise of permanency have been erected. There is one, 
for example, in which the inscription is fashioned out 
of empty cartridge cases stuck into cement. There is 
another carved with some art out of stone. 

I think, however, that those will sleep best who lie 
beneath the wooden cross fashioned with labour and 
some occasional dimness of eye by the pocket-knife of 
an old "pal." 




46 




XIII. 

THE MEN WITH THE SPADES. 

HE graves at Frere were dug by our own 
men, or rather by a small fatigue party 
from a regiment near by. Nearly every 
morning they came, the men with the 
spades. There were six of them, with a 
corporal, and they came up jauntily, with 
their spades on their shoulders and with 
pipes in their mouths. They were in their shirt-sleeves, 
and there was much display of belt and of unbuttoned 
neck. Their helmets were apt to be stuck on their 
heads in informal attitudes. They were inexpressibly 
untidy, and they made in their march a loose, sham- 
bling suggestion of a procession. 

They came past my tent about breakfast time, and 
every morning I wondered whether the men with the 
spades would come, since, when they came, I knew that 
a death had taken place in the night and wondered 
who it was. 

As in some way symbols of death, as elements in the 
last services to be rendered to the dead, the men with 
the spades filled me with great curiosity. They came 
up cheerily, and when they reached the outskirts of the 
hospital, the corporal would call out to any orderly he 



THE MEN WITH THE SPADES. 47 

saw : " Well, nipper, how many have we got to dig to- 
day ? " 

When they had finished, they went by my tent on 
their way back to camp : still the same untid} 7 , sham- 
bling lot ; still, as a rule, smoking, and still with the 
appearance of being infectiously cheerful. 

I know well enough, however, that there was little 
cheeriness among these men with the spades. They 
were dull enough in their inmost hearts. The soldier 
is much impressed by a burying, and by the formalities 
which surround the dead. And as he knows he must 
not "give way" he is prone to cover his easily stirred 
feelings by an attempt at a " devil-may-care " attitude, 
and by an assumption of rollicking indifference. It is, 
however, a poorly executed pretence, and it needed no 
exceptional acumen to see that in reality no small 
shadow of unhappiness followed the little shuffling pro- 
cession, in spite of their pipes and their jauntily posed 
helmets and their laboured jokes. 

If a soldier's grave is to be dug by sympathising 
hands, let it be dug by the hands of these very men 
with the spades. 



48 




XIV. 
THE MARCHING. 

N Friday, January 12 th, Sir Red vers 
Buller left Frere, and on the following 
day we took our second departure from 
that place. The movement was to be to 
Springfield, some eighteen miles across 
the veldt. No. 4 Field Hospital was 
now to leave the railway, and trust to 
transport by oxen and mules. The hospital was equipped 
to accommodate a minimum of three hundred beds, and 
was made up of sixty tents and ten marquees. The rank 
and file of the RA.M.C. numbered eighty-eight non- 
commissioned officers and men ; the staff was represented 
by three army surgeons, nine civil surgeons, the two army 
sisters who had worked at Colenso, and my remaining 
nurse, Miss McCaul. The other nurse, Miss Tarr, who 
came out with me, was at Maritzburg, desperately ill 
with dysentery. She nearly lost her life, and was scarcely 
convalescent when the time came for us to return to 
England. Her unexpected recovery was largely due to 
the skill of the doctor who looked after her (Dr. Rochfort 
Brown, of the Assembly Hospital), and to the extraordinary 
attention of those who nursed her, and especially to the 
kindness of a lady who was waiting at Pietermaritzburg 







tmamtmm 



g»»yv .•■" ■■■■■■v> ■••« 



MY WAGGON, SCOTCH CART, AND KAFFIR 

BOYS. 

.Fcic. p. 4S. 



TEE MARCHING. 

to join Tier husband, then locked up with his regiment in 
Ladysraith. 

The three nurses kept . with the hospital, and did as 
good work at Spearman's Farm, after Spion Kop and 
Vaal Krantz, and at Chieveley, after Pieters, as they did 
on the occasion of Colenso. They had no easy time, for 
from the day we began at Frere until the lull after 
Ladysmith we pitched the hospital no less than six times ; 
viz., twice at Frere, twice at Chieveley, once at Spearman's, 
and once at Springfield. 

Our train was composed of sixteen ox waggons, each 
with sixteen oxen, so that the number of oxen employed 
was over 260. There were besides five ambulances, each 
drawn by ten mules. The transport provided me consisted 
of a small covered waggon, a Scotch cart, sixteen mules, 
a conductor on horseback, four Kaffir " boys," a groom, 
and my own horse and man servant. 

On the occasion of our leaving Frere on January 13th, 
we were roused at 3 a.m., while it was yet quite dark, 
and while the Southern Cross was still ablaze in the sky. 
All the tents were struck by the ungenial hour of 4 a.m. 
Packing up and the circumstances of removal were con- 
ducted with difficulty, and no little confusion. The ox 
teams were lying about, and only a precarious light was 
furnished by the lanterns we carried. It required no 
exceptional carelessness to allow a wanderer in the camp 
to fall, in the course of a few minutes, over a prostrate 
ox, a rolled-up tent, a pannier, a pile of cooking pots, or 
a derelict saddle. When the dawn came an agreeable sense 
of order was restored, and Ave started on the march at 5 a. in. 

E 



THE MARCHING. 

There was a splendid sunrise, and the day proved a 
glorious one, although it was painfully hot. The road was 
a mere track across the veldt, which had been worn 
smooth in some places and cut into ruts in others by the 
hundreds of waggons and the great array of guns which 
had already passed over it. 

"No. 4" formed a long convoy by the time the last 
waggon had rumbled out of Frere. The pace was very 
slow, for the ox moves with ponderous lethargy. The 
surgeons rode by the side of the train, the sergeants and 
the orderlies walked as they listed, and the nurses rode in 
ambulances, to the great shaking of their bodies. With 
us were a hundred coolies, who were attached to the 
hospital for camp work. They were a dismal crowd as 
they stalked along with their thin bare legs and their 
picturesque tatters of clothing, with all their earthly 
possessions in bundles on their heads, and with apparently 
a vow of funereal silence in their hearts. 

The heat soon became intense, and the march blank 
and monotonous. There were ever the same shadeless 
veldt, the same unending brown road, relieved by nothing 
but an occasional dead horse or mule ; the same creeping, 
creaking, wallowing waggons, the never-absent perspiring 
Kaffirs, the everlasting cloud of dust, and over all the 
blazing sun that neither hat nor helmet could provide 
shelter from. 

At 7.30 a.m. we reached a spot on the veldt known 
as Pretorius' Farm. It was marked by what was called, 
with reckless imagery, a stream, but which was repre- 
sented by a wide and squalid gutter filled with stagnant 



THE UfARCHlWt. 51 

water which would have done no discredit to that of 
the lower Thames. Here we outspanned, and here we 
breakfasted. 

These breakfasts under the dome of Heaven are not 
to be looked back upon with rapture. Picnicking is an 
excellent relaxation in England, but a picnic without 
shade, without cooling drinks, without pasties and salads, 
and jellies and pies, without white tablecloths and bright 
knives, without even shelter from incessant dust, lacks 
much. Tinned provisions are, no doubt, excellent and 
nourishing, but oh, the weariness of them ! And oh, the 
squalor of the single tin mug, which never loses the taste 
of what it last had in it ! And oh, the meanness of the 
one tin plate which does duty for every meal, and every 
phase of it ! Perhaps of all unappetising adjuncts to a 
breakfast the tin of preserved milk, which has been 
opened two days and is already becoming disgustingly 
familiar, is the most aggressive. The hot climate and 
the indefatigable ant and the fly do little to make the 
items of a meal attractive. 

What does not rapidly decompose promptly dries up. 
On one occasion a roasted fowl was brought up reverently 
to Frere in a tin box, but when it came to be eaten it 
had dried into a sort of papier mdche roast fowl, and was 
like the viands which are thrown at the police at panto- 
mimes. We brought many varieties of preserved food 
with us, and of much of it the question could not fail to 
arise as to whether it had ever been worth preserving. 

Many had experience, too, of the inventive art of the 
shopkeeper as shown in the evolution of canteens and 



62 TEE MABCHIN'i. 

pocket table knives. The canteen, when unstrapped, 
tends to fall into a hundred parts, and can never be put 
together again. It is a prominent or generic feature of 
most canteens that the kettle should look as little like 
a kettle as possible, and that everything should pack 
into a frying-pan. The pocket picnicking knife contains a 
knife, a fork, a spoon, and a corkscrew. The fork runs into 
everything and prevents the knife from being carried in 
the pocket. The spoon and fork are jointed for more 
convenient stowing, and at crises in a meal they are 
apt to bend weakly in the middle and then to incon- 
tinently shut up. 

The outspanning and the inspanning at Pretorius' 
Farm occupied over two hours, and then the march was 
resumed. A better country was reached as we neared 
the river, and it was a pleasant sight to see the tumbling 
stream of the Lesser Tugela, and to find in one valley 
the pretence of a garden and a house among trees. This 
was at Springfield, which place we reached at 2.30 p.m. 
The march of some eighteen miles had therefore been 
effected in two treks. 

At Springfield the camping ground was the least 
dreary of any the hospital had experience of, and the 
proximity of the Lesser Tugela made bathing possible. 

After a few days at Springfield we moved on to 
Spearman's Farm, where we camped by the hill called 
Mount Alice. 

The return from Spearman's after Spion Kop and Vaal 
Krantz was even more monotonous than the going forth. 
The first journey was to Springfield, which was reached 







THE FIELD HOSPITAL ON THE MARCH. 
OUTSPANNED AT PRETORIUS' FARM. 

/ : . O. 52. 



THE MARCHING. 53 

at sundown, and where we bivouacked for the night. 
Springfield was left at dawn, and the next night was 
spent in a bivouac at Frere. On the folloAving day, before 
the sun was well up, we took the last stage of the march 
and reached Chieveley. Here all enjoyed once more the 
luxury of having tents overhead, for during the crawling 
journey over the veldt we slept in waggons, on waggons, 
or under waggons. 




54 




XV. 
spearman's farm. 

N a lonely valley under the mimosa- 
covered heights which dominate the 
Great Tugela is the lonely homestead 
of Spearman's Farm. Those who built 
it and made a home in it could have 
had little thought that it would one day 
ligure in the annals of history. The 
farm house and the farm buildings and the garden were 
enclosed by a rough stone wall, and upon this solitary 
homestead the hand of the Boer had fallen heavily. 
The house had been looted, and what was breakable in 
it had been broken. The garden had been trampled out 
of recognition, the gates were gone, the agricultural 
implements had been wantonly destroyed, and the un- 
pretending road which led to the farm was marked by 
the wheels of heavy guns. The house was small and of 
one storey, and was possessed of the unblushing ugliness 
which corrugated iron alone can provide. The door 
swung open, and any could enter who would, and 
through the broken windows there was nothing to be 
seen but indiscriminate wreckage. There was about the 
little house and its cluster of outbuildings a suggestion 
of the Old Country, and it wanted but a rick or so, and 



VARMAN'S FARM. 

a pond with white ducks, to complete the picture of a 
small English farm. The garden had evidently been the 
subject of solicitous care, and was on that account all 
the more desolate, and what delight it ever had had 
been trampled out of it by countless hoofs or obliterated 
by the rattling passage over it of a battery or so of 
artillery. 

At the back of the farm, and at the foot of a green 
kopje, was a quaint little burial ground — little because it 
held but two graves, and quaint because these were sur- 
mounted by unexpected stone memorials of a type to be 
associated with a suburban English cemetery. These 
monuments were fitly carved, and were distinctly the 
product of no mean town, and they were to the memory 
respectively of George Spearman and of Susan Spearman. 
For some undefinable reason these finished memorials, so 
formal and so hackneyed in their design, appeared in- 
appropriate and even unworthy of the dignity of the lonely 
graves at the foot of the kopje. Some more rugged 
emblem, free from artificiality and from any suggestion of 
the crowded haunts of men, would have covered more 
fittingly the last resting-place of these two pioneers. A 
few trees, almost the only trees within sight, shaded the 
little grave}^ard, and the trees and the monuments were 
enclosed by a very solid iron railing. It was in the shadow 
of this oasis that the dead from our hospital were buried. 



56 




XVI. 
THE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S. 

HE hospital reached Spearman's on January 
16th, and was pitched at the foot of the 
hill, upon the summit of which the naval 
gun was firing. We were, therefore, close 
to those scenes of fighting which were to 
occupy the next few weeks, and too close 
for comfort to the great 47 gun, the repeated booming of 
which often became a trouble to those who were lying ill 
in the hospital. 

The heights that dominated the southern bank of the 
Tugela were very steep on the side that faced the river, but 
on the side that looked towards Spearman's the ground 
sloped gradually down into a wide plain which, like other 
stretches of veldt, was dotted with kopjes and slashed with 
dongas. Anyone who mounted the hill at the back of the 
hospital would come by easy steps to an abrupt ridge, 
beyond which opened a boundless panorama. 

In the valley below this crest was the winding Tugela, 
and just across the dip rose the solemn ridge of Spion 
Kop. Far away in the distance were the purple hills 
which overshadowed Ladysmith. If the crest were followed 
to the right the ground rose until at last the summit 
of the naval hill was reached, and here were the " handy 



MJ^^rifa 





No. 4 FIELD HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S FARM, 

SURGEONS AND NURSE. 

Face p. 06. 



THE HOSPITAL AT HTEAEMAN'S. 57 

men" and their big gun. From this high eminence a 
splendid view was obtained of the country we desired 
once more to possess. The Tugela glistened in the sun 
like a band of silver, and over the plain and in and 
out among the kopjes and round the dongas the brown 
road wound to Ladysmith. The road was deserted, and 
the few homesteads which came into view showed no 
signs of life. At the foot of the hill was Potgieter's 
Drift, while above the ford was a splashing rapid, and 
below was the pont which our men had seized with such 
daring. 

The face of the hill towards the river was covered with 
mimosa trees and with cactus bushes and aloes, and this 
unexpected wealth of green almost hid the red and grey 
boulders which clung to the hillside. Among the rocks 
were many strange flowers, many unfamiliar plants, and 
creeping things innumerable. This was a favourite haunt 
of the chameleon, and I believe it was here that the hospital 
chameleon was captured. 

The quiet of the place, when the guns had ceased, 
was absolute, and was only broken by the murmur of the 
numerous doves which occupied the mimosa woods. The 
whole place seemed a paradise of peace, and there was 
nothing to suggest that there were some thousands of 
grimy men beyond the river who were busy with the 
implements of death. On looking closely one could see 
brown lines along many of the hillsides, and these said 
lines were trenches, and before the hubbub began men 
in their shirt-sleeves could be seen working about them 
with pickaxes and shovels. 



TEE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN S. 

I should imagine that few modem battles have been 
viewed by the casual onlooker at such near proximit}- and 
with such completeness in detail as were the engagements 
of Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz, when viewed from the 
high ground above our hospital. 

The hospital, although now more than twenty-five miles 
from the railway, was very well supplied with almost every 
necessity and with the amplest stores of food. Bread was 
not to be obtained, or only on occasion, when it would 
be brought up by an ambulance on its return from Frere. 
We had with us, however, our flocks and herds, and 
were thus able to supply the sick and wounded with fresh 
milk, and the whole hospital with occasional fresh meat. 
We were a little short of water, and fuel was not over 
abundant. As a result, the washing of clothes, towels, 
and sheets presented the same type of problem as is 
furnished by the making of bricks without straw. The 
aspect of a flannel shirt that has been washed by a KafHr 
on the remote veldt leaves on the mind the impression 
that the labour of the man has been in vain. 

Our stay at Spearman's was extended to three weeks, 
and we dealt with over a thousand wounded during that 
period, and I am sure that all those who came within our 
lines Avould acknowledge that at " No. 4 " the}'' found an 
unexpected degree of comfort and were in every way well 
" done for." 

On the Sunday after our arrival the wounded began to 
come in. Thirteen only came from the division posted at 
Potgieter's Drift, the rest came from Sir Charles Warren's 
column. Increasing numbers of wounded came in every 



THE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S. 



.7.1 



day in batches of from fifty to one hundred and fifty. 
They were all attended to, and were sent on to Frere as 
soon as possible. All the serious cases, however, were kept 
in the hospital. 




60 




XVII. 

THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS. 

ANY of the wounded who were brought in 
between the 18th and the 24th of January 
came in after sundown. The largest 
number arrived on the night of Monday, 
the 22nd. It was a very dark night. 
The outline of the tents and marquees 
was shadowy and faint. The camp was 
but the ghost of a camp. Here and there a feeble light 
would be shining through the fly of a marquee, and here 
and there an orderly, picking his way among the tent 
ropes by the aid of a lantern, would light up a row or two 
in the little canvas town. In the front of the camp was 
the flagstaff, high up upon which were suspended the two 
white lights which marked the situation of the hospital. 
These lamps only sufficed to illumine a few of the tents in 
the first line. The flaps of these tents Avere probably 
secured and the occupants asleep. 

It was a weary journey to the hospital, and one can 
imagine with what eagerness the tired, hungry, aching 
wounded would look ahead for the two white lights. 
Rocking in pain on a crawling ox waggon, or jolted in the 
rigid fabric of an ambulance, the way must have seemed 
unending. Tumbling along in the dark, with no sound 



THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS. 6] 

but the creaking of the waggon and the incessant moans 
of the shapeless, huddled figures who were lying in the 
cart, the journey might well have been one never to be 
forgotten. How many a time a tired head must have been 
lifted up from the straw to see if there were yet any sign 
of the two white lights. Would the journey never end, 
and the pain never cease ? and was the broken limb to be 
wrenched every time the blundering waggon pitched and 
rolled ? And why had the man who had talked so much 
ceased to speak — and indeed to breathe ? Would they 
drive through the dark for eternity ? and would they never 
come in view of the two white lights ? 

It was a miserable sight to see these belated 
waggons come in, and they would often rumble in all 
night. They emerged one by one out of the darkness 
and drew up in the open space between the two central 
lines of tents, and between the few uplifted lanterns 
held by the sergeants and the men on duty. After 
they had deposited their load they moved away, and 
vanished again into the night. 

Some of the wounded in the waggons were sitting 
up, but the majority were lying on the straw with 
which the waggon would be littered. Some were asleep 
and some were dead ; and by the light of the lanterns 
the waggon seemed full of khaki-coloured bundles, 
vague of outline, and much stained with blood, with 
here and there an upraised bandage, and here and 
there a wandering hand, or a leg in crude splints, or 
a bare knee. And round about all a medley of rifles, boots, 
haversacks, helmets, cartridge pouches, and tin canteens. 



62 THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS. 

What the journey must have been to many I could 
gather from an incident of one of these dreary nights. 
A waggon had reached the hospital lines, and was 
waiting to be unloaded. A man with a shattered arm 
in a sling was sitting up, and at his feet a comrade 
was lying who had been very hard hit, and who had 
evidently become weaker and less conscious as the 
waggon had rolled along. The apparently sleeping 
man moved, and, lifting his head to look at his pal, 
who was sitting above him, asked wearily, for probably 
the fiftieth time, " Don't you see nothing yet, Bill, of 
the two white lights ? " 








XVIII. 

AFTER SPION KOP. 

N Wednesday, January 24th, came the 
terrible affair of Spion Kop. On the 
previous day some hint of what was 
expected was foreshadowed in the order 
that an additional hundred bell tents 
were to be erected in No. 4 Field 
Hospital. These tents were obtained 
from a brigade who were bivouacking, and were all 
pitched by Wednesday afternoon. They represented 
accommodation for an additional number of five hundred 
wounded, and it was, therefore, evident that an im- 
portant engagement was at hand. 

On Thursday the wounded came pouring in, and 
they came in the whole day and until late at night, 
until the hospital was full. The number admitted on 
that day was nearly six hundred. Those who were 
deposited in the bell tents had to lie on stretchers. 
All were provided with blankets. In spite of the 
immense number of the wounded, they were all got 
under shelter by Thursday night, and had had their 
more serious injuries attended to, and were made as 
comfortable as circumstances would admit. Some of 



64 AFTER SPlON EOP. 

the staff went round with water and food, and others 
with morphia, while a third party made it their busi- 
ness to see that every man was bestowed as comfort- 
ably as extemporised pillows or change of posture could 
make him. The pillows were represented by helmets, 
or by the happy combination of helmet and boot, or by 
haversacks or rolled- up tunics. 

The volunteer ambulance corps and the coolie bearers 
did excellent service. The larger number of the wounded 
were on the top of Spion Kop. The path down was 
about two miles, was steep, and in places very difficult. 
The carriage of the wounded down the hill had all to be 
by hand. From the foot of the hill to the hospital the 
carriage was by ambulance waggons and in some cases 
by bearers. All the stretchers had hoods. There was no 
doubt that the wounded suffered much on account of 
the tedious transport, but it was rendered as little dis- 
tressing as possible. 

The surgeons who went after the wounded on the 
top of the hill told us that the sight of the dead and 
injured was terrible in the extreme, the wounds having 
been mostly from shell and shrapnel ; some men had 
been blown almost to pieces. The weather on Wednes- 
day was warm, but was not to be compared with the 
intense heat on the day of the battle of Colenso. The 
temperature was that of a hot summer's day in 
England. Thursda}^ was fortunately cloudy and much 
cooler. 

As to the wounded, there was the usual proportion 
of minor injuries, but on the whole the wounds were 




AN AMBULANCE WAGGON. 



Face p. &4. 



AFTER SPION KOP. 

much more severe than those received at Colenso. This 
is explained by the large number of wounds from 
shell and shrapnel. The men, moreover, were much 
exhausted by the hardships they had undergone. In 
many instances they had not had their clothes off for 
a week or ten days. They had slept in the open 
without great -coats, and had been reduced to the 
minimum in the matter of rations. The nights were 
cold, and there was on nearly every night a heavy 
dew. Fortunately there was little or no rain. The want 
of sleep and the long waiting upon the hill had told 
upon them severely. There is no doubt also that the 
incessant shell fire must have proved a terrible strain. 
Some of the men, although wounded, were found 
asleep upon their stretchers when brought in. Many 
were absolutely exhausted and worn out independently 
of their wounds. 

In spite of all their hardships the wounded men 
behaved as splendidly as they always have done. They 
never complained. They were quite touching in their 
unselfishness and in their anxiety " not to give trouble " ; 
but it was evident enough that they were much de- 
pressed at the reverse. 

The shell wounds were the most terrible and the 
most difficult to treat. One man had most of his 
face shot away, including both eyes. Another had the 
forearm shot off and two fearful wounds of each thigh 
dividing: the anterior muscles to the bone. In one 
case a shrapnel had opened a main artery in the fore- 
arm, and the man came down safely with a tourniquet 

F 






AFTER Sl'lON KOF. 



on his brachial artery composed of a plug of cake 
tobacco and the tape of a puttie. I cannot help think- 
ing that this ingenious tourniquet was the work of one 
of the " handy men." 





67 



XIX. 

THE STORY OF THE RESTLESS MAN. 

HE following incident may serve to illus- 
trate the often -expressed unselfishness 
of the soldier, and his anxiety to do 
what he can for a comrade in trouble. 

Among the wounded who came down 
from Spion Kop was a private, a native 
of Lancashire, who had been shot in 
the thigh. The thigh-bone was broken, and the fracture 
had been much disturbed by the journey to the hospital. 
The man was given a bedstead in one of the marquees - T 
the limb was adjusted temporarily, and he was told to 
keep very quiet and not to move off his back. Next 
morning, however, he was found lying upon his face, 
with his limb out of position and his splints, as he him- 
self confessed, "all anyhow." He was remonstrated with, 
but excused himself by saying, "But you see, doctor, I 
am such a restless man." 

The limb was more elaborately adjusted, and every- 
thing was left in excellent position. Next morning, 
however, the restless man was found lying on the floor 
of the marquee, and in his bed was a man who had 
been shot through the chest. The marquee was crowded 
and the number of beds was few, and those who could 
not be accommodated on beds had to lie on stretchers 



TEE STORY OF TEE RESTLESS, MAN. 

on the ground. The man who was shot in the chest 
had come in in the night, and had been placed on the 
only available stretcher. The restless man proceeded to 
explain that the newcomer seemed worse off than he 
was, and that he thought the man would be easier on 
a bed, so he had induced the orderlies to effect the 
change. The man who was shot in the chest died sud- 
denly, and in due course the restless man was back in 
his own bed once more. 

It was not, however, for long;, for on another morning 
visit the Lancashire lad was found on the floor again, 
and again beamed forth an explanation that one of the 
wounded on the ground, who had come in late, seemed 
to be very bad and so he had changed over. The pres- 
ent occupant of the bed was in a few days moved down 
to the base, and the restless man was in his own bed 
again. But not many days elapsed before he discovered 
among the fresh arrivals an old chum who longed to lie 
on a bed, and thus the good-hearted North-countryman 
found himself once more on the floor. 

The moving of a man with a broken thigh from a 
bed to the ground and back again means not only such 
disordering of splints and bandages, but much pain to 
the patient and no little danger to the damaged limb. 
So this generous lad was talked to seriously, and with a 
faintly-veiled sternness was forbidden to give up his bed 
again on any pretence. In the little attempt he made 
to excuse himself, he returned once more to his original 
joke and said, with a broad grin: "But you see, doctor, 
I am such a restless man." 



69 



XX. 

<• l>ll> WE WIN '. 




NE instance of the indomitable pluck of 
the British soldier deserves special notice. 
A private in the King's Royal Rifles, of 
the name of Goodman, was brought from 
Spion Kop to No. 4 Field Hospital in an 
ambulance with many others. He was 
in a lamentable plight when he arrived. 
He had been lying on the hill all night. He had not 
had his clothes off for six days. Rations had been scanty, 
and he had been sleeping in the open since he left the 
camp. He had been struck in the face by a fragment 
of shell which had carried away his right eye, the right 
upper jaw, the corresponding part of the cheek and mouth, 
and had left a hideous cavity at the bottom of which 
his tongue was exposed. The rest of his face was streaked 
with blood, which was now dried and black — so black that 
it looked as if tar had been poured on his head and had 
streamed down his cheek and neck. Eight hours had 
been occupied on the journey to the hospital, and eight 
hours is considered to be long even for a railway journey 
in a Pullman car. 

He was unable to speak, and as soon as he was settled 
in a tent he made signs that he wanted to write. A little 



70 "DID WE WINr- 

memorandum book and a pencil were handed to him, and 
it was supposed that his inquiry would be as to whether 
he would die — what chance he had ? Could he have 
something to drink ? Could anything be done for his 
pain ? After going through the form of wetting his pencil 
at what had once been a mouth, he simply wrote : " Did 
we win ? " No one had the heart to tell him the truth. 

His memorandum book — which is in my possession — 
was used by him while he remained speechless in the 
hospital, and certain of the notes he made in it, and which 
are here appended, speak for themselves : — 

" Water." 

" I haven't done bleeding yet." 

" I've got it this time. I think my right eye is gone, 
and I can hardly swallow." 

" There are no teeth in front." 

" It aches a lot." 

" I'm lying the wrong way for my wound." 

" I found the trenches." 

" I've had all the officers over to see me." 

" He is pleased, the doctor." 

'• Did my haversack come with me ? If it did, there 
is some tobacco in it. You can give it to them that 
smoke." 

Poor Goodman, he had no mouth to smoke with him- 
self. I am glad to say he reached England, is in good 
health, and is as cheery as ever. 



71 




XXI. 

THE FIGHTING SPIRIT. 

HE circumstances under which men enlist 
in the Army are, no doubt, varied enough. 
But not a few find their place under the 
colours in obedience to that fighting 
spirit which has for centuries been strong 
in the hearts of the islanders from Great 
Britain and Ireland. That spirit has 
anyhow carried the colours over the world. 

Among the wounded there were many who, to use 
an expression common on the soldiers' lips, "were fed 
up with the war : " they had had enough of it. There 
were others who were eager to be at it again, who felt 
that they had a score to wipe off; and even among the 
desperately hurt there would be here and there a man 
keen for revenge, and full of a passionate desire " to 
have another go at 'em." These men, ill as they often 
were, would describe with a savage delight, and in savage 
language, the part they had played in the battle out 
of which they had been finally dragged on a stretcher. 
A little success, a victory however small, did much to 
lessen the torment of a wound and to gild the contem- 
plation of a life henceforth to be spent as a cripple. 
One gallant lad had been paralysed by a Mauser at 



72 THE FIGHTING SPIRIT. 

short range, and had little prospect of other than perma- 
nent lameness. He had been in the assault on Vaal 
Krantz, had escaped without hurt until just towards 
the end, and was shot as his victorious company were 
rushing the last trench. After he had been examined, 
and while he was still lying on his stretcher, I could not 
avoid the remark, " This is a bad business." To which 
he replied, "Yes, but we took the bally trench." 

To many and many of the dying the last sound of 
which they were conscious must have belonged to the 
clamour of war, and it was well for those who heard, or 
fancied they heard, above the roar of guns, the shout of 
victory. One officer, dying in the hospital at Spearman's, 
had his last moments made happy by the sound of battle. 
He had sunk into a state of drowsiness, and was becoming 
gradually unconscious. Every now and then the boom 
of the 4 - 7 gun, firing from the hill above us, would 
rattle through the tents, and with each shot a smile 
would come over his face, and he would mutter with 
great satisfaction, " They are getting it now." He re- 
peated these words many times, and they were, indeed, 
the last he uttered. Things were evidently going better 
with the army in his dream than they were at that 
moment with the real regiments by the river. 

Some most vivid suggestions of what may pass through 
the soldier's mind during the actual circumstances of war 
were afforded by the utterances of more or less uncon- 
scious men when passing under the influence of chloro- 
form in the operation-tent. Before they fell into the 
state of sleep, it was evident that the drug, with its 



TEE FIGHTING SPIRIT. 73 

subtle intoxicating power, brought back to the fading 
sense some flash of a scene which may have been real, 
but which was rendered lurid, spectral, and terrifying 
by the action of the poison. Under this condition in- 
coherent words of command would be uttered in rapid 
tones, full of an agony of eagerness and haste ; and cries 
for help would be yelled forth in what seemed to be 
a maniacal frenzy. Many of the actual utterances that 
escaped these unconscious lips, and gave glimpses of a 
phantom war as seen through the vapour of chloroform, 
were too fragmentary to be remembered, but two at 
least were muttered with such an emphasis of horror 
that I took note of them. 

One of the wounded from Spion Kop had evidently 
engraved upon his mind the hideous scene of slaughter 
which the trenches on that hill presented. As he was 
being anaesthetised it was apparent that in his dream he 
was back again in the trenches, and was once more 
among his dead and mangled comrades. The vision of 
one wounded man especially haunted him and fascinated 
him, and at last he screamed out : " There goes that 
bloke again whose leg was shot away; blimy if he ain't 
crawling now ! " 

Another poor fellow had before his eye the spectre of 
an awful kopje. His fragmentary utterances made vivid 
the unearthly land he was traversing. All who stood by 
could picture the ghostly kopje, and could almost share 
in his anguish when he yelled : " There they are on the 
hill ! For God's sake, shoot ! Why don't we shoot ? " 



74 




XXII. 

THE BODY-SNATCHERS. 

ARLY in the campaign Colonel Gallwey, 
the P.M.O., organised a volunteer am- 
bulance corps. Two thousand bearers 
were wanted, and in a few days two 
thousand were enrolled. Their duties 
were to carry the wounded off the field, 
to transport serious cases from the 
advanced hospitals or dressing stations to the stationary 
field hospital, and thence, if need be, to the railway. 
There were to be twelve to a stretcher. 

This corps contained examples of all sorts and con- 
ditions of men — labourers, mechanics, "gentlemen," dock 
loafers, seamen, dentists, a chemist or two, a lawyer 
or two, tram drivers, clerks, miners, and shop assistants. 
Many were refugees from the Transvaal, and the majority 
had been thrown out of work of some kind or another 
by the war. A chance of getting employment had, no 
doubt, induced many to enlist, while probably the greater 
number were attracted by a spirit of adventure, by a 
desire to get to the front and to see something of the 
pomp and circumstance of war. 

They formed a strange company when they mustered 
at Pietermaritzburg — a section of a street crowd in their 



THE BODY-SNATCHERS. 75 

everyday clothes, or in such clothes as were selected for 
roughing it. There was immense variety in the matter 
of hats. Belts were a feature. The flannel shirt, which 
was practically de rigiieur, was replaced in an instance 
or two by a jersey. Collars were not worn ; neckties 
were optional. There was no fixed fashion in the matter 
of boots ; they varied from canvas shoes, worthy of a 
dandy at the seaside, to top boots fit for a buccaneer. 

As to the men themselves, they were of all ages, 
heights, shapes, and sizes — the men of a crowd. Some 
were sunburned, and some were pale. Some were indif- 
ferent, but most were eager. Some were disposed to 
assume a serious military bearing, while others appeared 
to regard the venture as a silly joke of which they were 
beginning to be a little ashamed. 

There is no doubt that the corps was in appearance 
not impressive. They were wild and shabby looking, 
disordered, unsymmetrical, and bizarre. They were 
scoffed at ; and acquired the not unkindly meant title of 
the " body-snatchers." Later on the exuberant invention 
of the soldier dignified them by the titles of the " catch- 
'em-alive-oh's " or the "pick-me-ups." 

It is needless to say that a good number of unsuitable 
and undesirable men had found their way into the ranks. 
These were gradually weeded out, and under the discreet 
command of Major Wright the corps improved day by 
day, until the time Spearman's was reached they formed 
a very efficient, reliable, and handy body of men. They 
did splendid service, and one which was keenly appre- 
ciated. They were the means of saving many lives and 



76 THE BODY-SNATOHERS. 

an infinite amount of pain. Their longest tramp, of which 
I had knowledge, was from Spearman's to Frere, a distance 
of twenty-five miles. They showed the usual British in- 
difference under fire, and went without hesitancy wherever 
they were led. Unfortunately it happened that many 
of the worthy " body-snatchers " were wounded, and not 
a few of them were killed. 

In the early days of their career the " catch-'em-alive- 
oh's" fell upon bad times. They knew little of camp 
life, and less of the art of getting the most out of it. They 
had no organisation among themselves, and many were 
incompetent to shift alone. They began as a mob, and 
they tried to live as a mob, and the result was that about 
the time of Colenso they had little comfort but that which 
is said by the moralist to be derived from labour. In 
their camp after the battle they had time to settle down. 
They entered the camp a thriftless crowd, and came out 
of it a company of handy men. 

They were popular with the soldiers. They had the 
gift of tongues of a kind, and could compete with most 
in the matter of lurid language. Their incessant hunger 
and indiscriminate thirst were a matter for admiration. 
They were good-hearted, and, although they looked wild, 
they meant well. Many a wounded man has been rocked 
to sleep on their stretchers, and on more than one dying 
ear the last sound that fell was the tramp of their un- 
tidy feet. 




XXIII. 

SEEING THEM OFF. 

N the afternoon of Thursday, February 

8th, the news came to the hospital at 

Spearman's that the army was once more 

to retire, and signs were already abroad 

to show that the retreat had commenced. 

At the same time an order arrived to 

the effect that all the wounded were to 

be moved at sunrise, on the following day, to Frere. Our 

stay at Spearman's — extended now to three weeks — had 

therefore come to an end. 

Among those left in the hospital were 150 patients 
whose condition was more or less serious. They had been 
kept under care as long as possible in order to avoid or 
postpone the danger of the long journey to the base. It 
was determined that these 150 men should be carried 
down to Frere on stretchers and by hand. And this was 
done, and well done, by the much -ridiculed corps of 
" body-snatchers." 

It was no light undertaking, for the distance was twenty- 
five miles, and the road was dusty and not of the best. 
Every step had to be tramped under a glaring sun, and 
the heat of that day was great. Allowing twelve men 
to a stretcher, 1,800 men would be required. This 



78 SEEING TEEM OFF. 

number was forthcoming at sunrise, and they accom- 
plished the march in the day, reaching Frere at sundown. 
This was a splendid piece of work. 

It is not hard to surmise what would have happened 
to many of those who were the most ill if their journey 
to Frere had been by the ox-waggon, or by the still less 
easy ambulance. As it was, the whole convoy went down 
with comfort, and only one man died on the way, and 
he had indeed just reached his journey's end when his 
life ebbed away. 

Long before sunrise on the morning of the departure 
from Spearman's the hospital was astir ; and while it 
was yet dark lights could be seen in most of the tents, 
and lanterns carried by orderlies or coolies were moving 
here and there among the grey lines. The two white 
lights which hung from the flag-pole in front of the 
hospital were still shining. By the time the shadows 
had vanished and the light of the dawn fell upon " No. 
4," it was in a state of untidy turmoil. Everyone was 
on the alert to "see them off." 

In the marquees the last dressings were being carried 
out by candle-light. Clothes were being got together; 
helpless men were being dressed ; blankets were being 
rolled up, and such comforts as the hospital could provide 
were being packed for the wounded to take with them 
on their journey. Cherished possessions were being- 
dragged out from under pillows, to be safely disposed 
in a haversack or a boot. The grey light fell upon 
orderlies in their shirt-sleeves bustling from tent to tent ; 
upon piles of provision cases and of forage which were 



SEEING THEM OFF. 79 

being turned out ; upon heaps of stretchers ; upon the 
rolled-up kit of the Army Medical Corps men ; upon 
melancholy coolies who had been up all night, and were 
still crawling about, and were still in their night attire. 
This night outfit would consist, probably, of a turban, a 
mealie sack round the neck, and a decayed army mackin- 
tosh on the body ; or of a turban, a frock-coat, which 
might at one time have graced Bond Street, and bare legs. 
Here and there in the indistinct light would be seen the 
white apron and trim dress of a nurse, who still carried 
the lantern she had had with her since the small hours 
of the morning. All were anxious to be up in time to 
"see them off." 

In due course, and even yet before the sun could be 
seen, the Volunteer Ambulance Corps began to form up 
outside the camp. They were nearly two thousand strong, 
and they were a wild-looking company. There was, how- 
ever, more uniformity in their clothing now, because they 
had been supplied with khaki tunics, and with occasional 
khaki trousers. Some wore putties, some gaiters, and 
some had tucked their trousers inside their socks. A few 
had cut their trousers off about the knee and were dis- 
tinguished by bare legs. A gaiter on one leg and a puttie 
on the other was not considered to be in any way demode. 
Their hats were still very varied, but many had possessed 
themselves of helmets which had been picked up on the 
field. Uniformity and smartness could, however, not be 
expected if one man wore a helmet and the next a tam- 
o'-shanter, the third a bowler hat, and the fourth a 
" squasher " or a headpiece of his own designing. They 



SO .SEEING THEM OFF. 

had red-cross brassards on their left arms, but these had 
become merely fluttering bits of colouring. 

This weird corps carried their possessions with them, 
and it was evident that in transporting their impedi- 
menta they had appreciated the value of the division of 
labour. Many had military water-bottles, which they had 
probably picked up. Others carried their water in glass 
bottles, which dangled from their waists. Hanging about 
their bodies by strings or straps would be various useful 
domestic articles. Attached to one man would be a 
bundle of firewood, to another a saucepan, to a third a 
kettle and a lantern. Here a man would have in the 
place of a sabre- tache a biscuit tin suspended by a cord, 
or a hatchet and a tin-opener, or a spare pair of boots, 
which swung bravely as he marched. A popular vade 
mecwm was an empty jam tin (much blackened by the 
smoke of the camp fire) with a wire handle, and evidence 
that it represented a cooking-pot. Belts, knives, sticks, 
overcoats, rolled-up mackintoshes, and a general tint of 
sunburn and dirt completed the uniform of this strange 
company. 

Before they entered the camp the wounded had been 
brought out on stretchers. The stretchers were placed 
on the grass, side by side, in long rows which extended 
across the breadth of the hospital. The men lying on 
them were not pleasant to look at. They formed a 
melancholy array of " bad cases." Each man was covered 
by a brown blanket, and within the hood of the stretcher 
were his special belongings, his boots and his haversack, 
and, with them, such delicacies for the journey as a pot 



SEEING THEM OFF. 81 

of jam, a chunk of bread, some biscuits, a lump of tinned 
meat in a newspaper, and bottles (mostly with paper 
corks) containing water or milk or tea. Those on the 
stretchers presented bandaged legs and bandaged arms, 
splints of all kinds, covered-up eyes and bound-up heads, 
and the general paraphernalia of an accident ward. Some 
of the faces were very pinched and pale, for pain and 
loss of blood and exhaustion had caused the sunburn to 
fade away. 

The light of the dawn fell upon this woe-begone line, 
and dazzled the eyes of many with the unaccustomed 
<?lare. Those who were not too ill were in excellent 
spirits, for this was the first step on the journey home- 
wards. Such were excited, garrulous and jocular, and 
busy with pipes and tobacco. A few were already weary, 
and had on their lips the oft-repeated expression that 
" they were fed up with the war." Many a head was 
lifted out of the hood to see if any old chum could be 
recognised along the line, and from those would come 
such exclamations as : " Why are you here, Tom ? " 
" Where have you got hit ? " " Ain't this a real bean- 
feast ? " " Thought you were stiff.'"' " We're on the 
blooming move at last," 

Many of the men on the stretchers were delirious, and 
some were almost unmanageable. One poor fellow was 
babbling about the harvest and the time they were having. 
He was evidently in his dream once more among the 
cornfields of England, and among plenteous beer. Another 
shook the canvas hood of his stretcher and declared with 
vehemence that he " would not go in an}* - bally sailing 

G 



SEEING THEM OFF. 

boat, he was going in a steamer, and the colonel would 
never let his men go in a rotten sailing ship." Whereupon 
he affirmed that " he was going to chuck it," and pro- 
ceeded to effect his purpose by rolling oft' his stretcher. 

When the Volunteer Ambulance Corps marched along 
the line of stretchers they were the subject of much chaff, 
and many comments such as these burst forth : " You're 
being paraded before the General. So buck up ! " " Pull 
up yer socks." " You with the kettle ! Do you take 
yourself for a gipsy van ? " " We ain't buying no hard- 
ware to-day — go home." " You know there's a Government 
handicap on this job and half-a-crown to the man who 
gets in first, so you had better hurry my stretcher along." 
And so on ; in the dialect of London, of Dublin, of 
Lancashire, and of Devon, with infinite variety and with 
apparent good spirits. 

There were many anxious cases among this crowd on 
the stretchers. One, for example, was an Irishman named 
Kelly, a private in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was as 
plucky a soldier as the plucky soil of Ireland has ever 
produced. His right arm had been smashed on Spion 
Kop. He had been on the hill two nights ; and when 
the darkness fell had spent his time in crawling about 
on the ground, holding the sleeve of his shattered arm 
between his teeth, dragging his rifle with his left hand, and 
searching the bodies of the dead for any water that may 
have been left in their water-bottles. He had lost an 
incredible amount of blood, and when he reached the 
hospital it was necessary to amputate the whole upper 
limb, including the shoulder-blade and collar-bona He 



SEEING TffVM OFF. 83 

went through this ordeal with infinite courage and with 
irrepressible good humour. He had been the strong man 
of his regiment and a great boxer, and, as he casually 
said, " He should miss his arm." 

Kelly's spirits were never damped, and he joked on 
all topics whenever he had the strength to joke. He 
was a little difficult to manage, but was as docile as a 
lamb in the hands of the Sister who looked after him, 
and for whom he had a deep veneration. Nothing in 
the ordinary way upset this gallant Irishman, but just 
before the convoy started he did for once break down. 
Two bottles of English beer had found their way into 
the camp as a precious gift. Kelly was promised these 
bottles to take with him on his journey. In due course 
they were deposited in the hood of his stretcher. When 
his eyes fell upon the delectable vision of English beer 
he could stand no more, and Kelly wept. 

I little thought when I saw Kelly off at Spearman's 
that the next time I should say good-bye to him would 
be in a hansom cab in Pall Mall; but so it was. 

When all was ready the stretchers were lifted off 
the ground in order, and the bearers filed out of the 
camp and on to the dusty track. The morning was 
like that of a summer's day in England, and Ave 
watched the long convoy creep along the road until it 
was nearly out of sight. The perfect quiet of their de- 
parture was only broken by the oft-repeated boom of 
the naval gun on the hill. 



-•I 



XXIV. 




A FUNERAL AT SPEARMAN S. 

HERE were many deaths at Spearman's, 
and the burying ground was under the 
shadow of the clump of trees which 
stood at the back of Spearman's Farm, 
and of which burying place I have already 
spoken. Those who died were carried 
away to the mortuary tent, and there 
each body was sewn up by the coolies in the brown army 
blanket or in a sheet. The sewing was after the manner of 
the sewing up of a package. The brown blanket, how- 
ever, formed but a poor covering at the last, and it made 
little mystery of what it shrouded. Beneath its tightly- 
drawn folds there was shadowed something that was 
still a man, for was there not the clear outline of head 
and chin and shoulders and feet ? When the body was 
ready it was brought out of the tent, placed upon 
a stretcher, and carried to the grave. Over the 
bodies of the officers was thrown the Union Jack, but 
the bodies of the soldiers were covered only by the 
brown blanket or the sheet. 

There was one funeral which I have in mind, on 
the occasion of which eight were buried — eight who had 
been struck down on Spion Kop — four non-commissioned 
officers and four men. 



A /• ' /,' ,\7<; UAL AT 8 1 ' E I / I 1/ A .V " 8. 

The funeral party drew up near to the mortuary- 
tent, and halted there in precise military formation. 
There was the firing party, who went first, with inverted 
rifles ; then came the bearers, and then a small company 
from the regiments of the dead. 

Some little way off stood a cluster of men who had 
come, in a shy, apologetic sort of way, to see the last of 
their pals. They seemed to think that their presence 
near by the formal procession was an intrusion, and 
they huddled together, some ten of them, at a distance. 
From their attitudes one inferred that they did not 
wish to be considered as taking any part in the funeral. 
They were pretending to be merely onlookers. They 
were restless, and disposed to shuffle with their feet, or 
they kicked the earth up absently with the toes of their 
boots. 

Some of the ten kept their eyes fixed upon the 
mortuary- tent, to watch the bodies come out. As each 
of the blanket-covered objects was brought from the 
tent into the sunlight there were murmured comments 
from this small knot of untidy men — these men who 
did not want to look like mourners, but who were 
mourners indeed. " That's surely Ginger," says one of 
the number, pointing to the body last brought out. 
" No, that ain't Ginger," says his companion. " Ginger 
never had a chest on him like that. That's more like 
Jimmy Evans. Jimmy held hisself like that often." 

So they talked, and they kept up fairly well this 
pretence at a casual conversation. But some could not 
trust themselves to speak and these kept their backs to 



86 A FUNERAL AT SPEARMAN'S. 

the tent and kicked at the earth absently. Those who 
took part in the apparent nonchalant talk had a 
struggle, I think, to keep their voices from breaking and 
their eyes from becoming dim. The " things " they were 
bringing out of the tent, done up in blankets, had once 
been men, who had, perhaps, enlisted with them, who 
probably hailed from the same town in the Old Country, 
and who were the subjects of many memories. 

When all the bodies were ready and the stretchers 
in line, the procession started, and marched slowly and 
silently round the kopje and along the glade that led 
to the trees by Spearman's Farm. 

But for the tents of a far-off camp the veldt was a 
desert. There was scarcely a human being in sight. 
There was none of the pomp of a soldier's burial ; no 
funeral march ; no awed crowd ; no tolling of bells ; 
no group of weeping women in black clothes ; no 
coffin borne on a gun-carriage and distinguished by the 
helmet and accoutrements of the dead. There were only 
the eight bundles in the brown blankets on the eight 
stretchers. And some little way in the rear were the 
slouching company of the ten, who did not want to be 
regarded as mourners, and who, with occasional " sniffing," 
and perhaps a surreptitious wiping of eyes with a shirt 
cuff, were shuffling along with a poor affectation of in- 
difference. 

In due course the last resting-place is reached, and 
here are eight separate graves in a line, and at the head 
of them stands the chaplain. He has on a college cap, 
a white surplice, riding breeches and putties. He reads 



A FUNRBAL AT BPEABMM y " 

the service with the utmost impressiveness. The men 
who form the firing party and the escort are ranged 
round the place of burial in precise military lines, and, 
in spite of the blazing sun, every head is bared. The 
words of the chaplain alone break the silence, although 
now and then there comes across the plain the boom of 
the naval gun. And here, under the dazzling sky of 
Africa, and at the foot of a kopje on the veldt, the 
eight dead are laid in the ground. 

There are no onlookers except myself and the little 
group of the ten. They stand in a cluster at a respect- 
ful distance. Their heads are bare, and more than one 
man has hidden his face in his helmet, while others 
have turned their heads away so that their mates shall 
not see their eyes. Their pretence at indifference and 
at having been drawn to the funeral by mere curiosity 
is now of the very slenderest. 

As the graves are being filled up the funeral party 
marches back to the camp with a brisk step. The 
slovenly ten, Avho are not taking the part of mourners, 
scatter. They wander off in twos and threes, and they 
have become curiously silent. Some have dragged out 
pipes from their pockets, and are filling them absently. 
One is whistling an incoherent fragment of a tune. 
They look towards the horizon, and perhaps see nothing 
but the barren veldt, or perhaps they see a familiar 
village in England, and within a cottage in the small 
street the figure of a woman with her face buried in her 
hands. 



-- 




XXV. 

ABSENT-MINDEDNESS. 

Y small experience of the British soldier 
in the field leads me to think that he 
does not altogether deserve the title of 
the " absent - minded." The average 
soldier has, I think, the most anxious 
regard for his belongings, and although 
that anxiety may have been obscured 
or even dissipated by the boisterous incidents which at- 
tend an embarkation for the Cape, still when he reaches 
camp his mind is much occupied with recollections of 
the people at home, and with concern for their well- 
being. 

Among the wounded were alwa}^s those whose first 
anxiety was as to the effect the news of their injuries 
would have upon mothers, sweethearts, or wives. And 
many a message of consolation was confided to the 
sympathising ears of the Sisters, and many a letter of 
assurance was laboriously written by those who had the 
strength to write. 

In the matter of letters the soldier takes profound 
interest. He writes whenever he has the chance, and 
makes a great deal of fuss about the performance. To 
most of those in camp the posting of a letter ho;ne is 



A BSENT- MIND E D \ E 

an event, and so precious is the pencilled epistle, that 
the writer will hesitate before he commits it to the 
casual sack which is tied up to the fly of the post-office 
tent, and which appears scarcely formal or official 
enough to receive the dirt- stained despatch. For such 
despatches, nothing less pretentious than a post-office 
building or an iron letter-box seem fitting. 

Many a time have I seen a letter dropped into the 
sack with such an expression of insecurity, and such 
evident feeling of hopelessness as to its safe conduct, 
that the writer of the same has appeared to regret that 
he had parted with it. A post-office official in his shirt- 
sleeves, with a pipe in his mouth and a helmet on the 
back of his head, seems hardly to be responsible enough 
for the occasion ; and if the letter- writer would venture 
to express a hope that his elaborately directed letter 
" would be all right," the post-office deity is apt to 
regard this concern with flippancy. "There's the sack! 
Chuck the blooming thing in. It won't break," was 
about all the comfort he would get. 

The receipt of letters from home, also, was attended 
with an eagerness which was hardly fitting in an absent- 
minded man. The sergeant with the bundle of letters 
would read out the names on the envelopes in a military 
voice, ferociously and without feeling, and each man 
who got a missive grabbed it and marched off with it 
with the alacrity of a dog who has got a bone. If he 
could find the shelter of a waggon where the letter 
could be read unobserved it was well. 

The letters dictated to the Sisters in the hospital 



9<> A BS ENT-MINDEDNM8S. 

were apt to be a little formal. It seemed to be thought 
proper that expression should be curbed, and that the 
sensibilities of the Sister should be in no way shocked 
by the revelation of a love passage. One dying man, who 
was dictating a letter to his mother, thought he would 
like to send with it a last message to " his girl," and in 
answer to the Sister's inquiry as to what she should 
write, modestly said, " Give her my kind regards." 

There need have been no precise decorum in the 
wording of these last hopeless utterances, for if the sender 
of the letter " sniffed " a little, as he dictated the message, 
the Sisters cried over them. 

When a wounded man came to be stripped it was 
common to find some precious keepsake or some secret 
package hung about his neck, and to which he clung 
with the earnestness of a worshipper to his fetish. One 
man, particularly, was much more anxious about a locket 
that hung on his hairy chest than he was about his wound. 
He seemed to think that so long as the cheap little 
trinket was not lost his life mattered little. In the 
operation-tent he was reluctant to take chloroform until 
a solemn promise had been given that no harm should 
befall his locket, and that it should not be removed from 
his neck. I am afraid that the history of the locket ends 
here, for the loyal man died. 

Among the wounded brought in one day from Pot- 
gieter's Drift was a man of scanty clothing, who held 
something in his closed hand. He had kept this treasure 
in his hand for some eight hours. He showed it to the 
Sister. It was a ring. In explanation he said, " My girl 



ABSENT-UIXJ>EDXESti. 



9] 



gave me this ring, and when I was hit I made up my 
mind that the Boers should never get it, so I have kept it 
in my fist, ready to swallow it if I was taken before our 
stretchers could reach me." 




92 



XXVI. 




AT CHIEVELEY AGAIN. 

N Sunday, February 11th, No. 4 Field 
Hospital once more reached Chieveley, 
after the tedious march from Spearman's 
of which mention has been made. The 
hospital was pitched near the station, 
and not far from the spot it had occupied 
on the day of the battle of Colenso. 
Chieveley is represented only by a railway station and a 
station-master's house. There are, however, many euca- 
lyptus trees about these buildings, and the spot is shady. 
The ground stands high, and miles of undulating country 
are open to view. There are a Kaffir kraal or two in 
sight, and many mimosa groves, and beyond them all 
the line of the river. Chieveley, therefore, as a camp, was 
well esteemed. 

The sojourn at Chieveley began with that terrible 
fourteen days of incessant fighting which ended in the 
taking of Pieters and the relief of Ladysmith. Every day 
at sunrise the guns began, and it was not until sunset 
that they ceased. Any who looked up from their work 
in the camp, and turned their eyes towards Umbulwana, 
would seldom fail to see the flash of a lyddite shell on 
the far-off ridges, or, clear against the blue sky, the white 




A BRIGADE MARCHING OUT AT CHIEVELEY 

FOR THE ATTACK UPON PIETERS. PASSING 

THE FIELD HOSPITAL. 

Face p. 92. 



AT GHIEVELEY AGAIN. 93 

puff of cloud from a shrapnel. Every day the wounded 
came in, mostly towards evening. Fortunately their 
numbers were few. 

The days had again become very hot and very trying. 
It was weather which the soldier is apt to describe, in the 
vivid language of his kind, as weather "when a man should 
have his body in a pool and his head in a public-house ! " 

Standing in the station at Chieveley was commonly to 
be seen the armoured train. Whatever iron plates could 
do to make a structure indestructible had been done ; but 
to such beauty as a railway train may possess nothing had 
thereby been added. The sailors had, however, been busy 
with the engine of the train. The engineers had given 
it the outline of a square gasometer, but the " handy 
man " had covered the disfigured machine with ropes as 
with a garment. From the top of the funnel a veil of 
closely placed ropes trailed to the ground. A like panoply 
of ropes covered the body of the engine, and its wheels, 
and its cylinders, and its every detail. The officers called 
this production the " Russian poodle," but the soldiers 
gave it the name of " Hairy Mary " ; and this name 
clung to it. 

During the movement to Spearman's, Chieveley had 
been carefully fortified. A space round the station had 
been marked off by a very deep wire entanglement. 
Trenches had been dug, and some sort of a fort thrown 
up. There were entrenchments about the station-master's 
mild little house, and before the windows were erected 
iron plates with loopholes such as were used on the 
trucks of the armoured train. Similar iron plates formed 



94 AT CBIEVELEY AGAIN. 

a barricade along the modest verandah, and the result 
of it all was that the small unobtrusive house was made 
to look fierce and truculent. The few bare rooms were 
used by the Headquarters Staff, and the rough tables 
and stools were littered with all sorts of war-like para- 
phernalia. Among these insignia of battle, murder, and 
sudden death were two strange objects which had been 
left behind by the looting Boers, and which seemed out 
of place. One was a stuffed jay, and the other a dress- 
maker's lay-figure or "bust." The bird was stuck upon 
the wreck of the mantelpiece and stared amiably and 
foolishly from its perch. The "bust" was life-size, and 
suggested the torso of a black woman, with a little 
polished knob for a head. It may have at one time 
graced the salon of a Parisian dressmaker. It was, how- 
ever, now no longer used to show off dresses, trimmings 
and flounces, for a helmet surmounted the graceful chest, 
and belts, carrying pistols and swords, hung from the fine 
shoulders or clung to the delicate waist. 





'HAIRY MARY" AT CHIEVELEY. 



Fare p. 9-t 



95 




XXVII. 

A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITII. 

ENERAL BULLER reached Ladysmith on 
March 1st, and on Friday, March 2nd, 
I had the good fortune to enter the 
town. The journey was not accom- 
plished without difficulty. It was neces- 
sary to follow the road the army had 
taken, as the main road was not known 
to be free from the enemy, and moreover, the bridge 
leading to it had been blown up. The distance from 
Chieveley to Ladj^smith by the route taken was between 
twenty-three and twenty-four miles. I took my covered 
cart (called in the camp the " 'bus "), with ten mules and 
two Kaffir " boys." A man rode in front to pick out 
the road. With me came my remaining nurse, Miss 
McCaul, and Mr. Day, an army chaplain. We took pro- 
visions, water, and forage for two days. 

We left Chieveley at 6.30 a.m., and the first part of 
the journey was across the battlefield of Colenso. The 
road then became very rough, ran over ridges and down 
into dongas, over boulders and deep into ruts, so that 
the mules would now be at a fair trot and now dragged 
to a standstill. Ac last we reached the hill commanding 



96 A JOVBNEY TO LAJDYSMITB. 

the pontoon bridge over the Tugela. At the top of this 
precipitous height was the mighty convoy of ox- waggons 
with food for Ladysrnith. The waggons could be counted 
by hundreds and the cattle by thousands. The hubbub 
could not be surpassed. The lowing of the oxen, the 
shrieking of the Kaffir " boys," the bellowed orders of 
the convoy conductors, the groaning of colliding 
waggons, made a compound of sound worthy of the 
occasion. Among the rabble would be seen ambulance 
waggons, water carts, isolated gun carriages and ammu- 
nition waggons, bread carts, mounted officers hurrying 
through, weary pickets returning to camp, and a few 
" Tommies " tramping along with a cheery indifference 
to the restless, struggling crowd. 

The actual road above the pontoon was the very 
steepest declivity I have ever seen negotiated by struc- 
tures on wheels. The 'bus (empty of all occupants) slid 
unsteadily down the incline, rocking like a ship in a 
troubled sea, and the mules had to put on their best 
pace to keep clear of the onrushing wheels. 

The river at the point of crossing is extremely pic- 
turesque. The steep rugged banks are rendered beautiful 
by mimosa and cactus, and below the pontoons the 
torrent breaks into foaming rapids, while up-stream is 
the celebrated waterfall of the Tugela. From the river 
the road wound on to the foot of Umbnlwana. It ran 
across plains and down into valleys, and over spruits and 
across boulders, and through mimosa groves and over dusty 
wastes. A river at the foot of the great hill was forded, 
and as the mules were nearly carried off their feet, and 



A JOURNEY TO LADY SMITH. 97 

the waggon was flooded with the stream, we were glad 
to land on the opposite bank. 

The Boer camps through which the road led showed 
every evidence of a hurried departure. The cooking pots 
were still on the camp fires ; the rude shelters under 
which our hardy enemy had lived were still intact. The 
ground was strewed with refuse, with the remains of the 
last meal, with discarded articles of clothing, with empty 
bottles and barrels, with fragments of chairs and tables, 
with empty flour sacks, and, above all, with the straw, 
which is a feature of a Boer settlement. There Avere no 
tents. The shelters were made of boughs, of beams of 
wood from adjacent farms, of iron railings, of barbed 
wire, of plates of corrugated iron, of casual patches of 
canvas, and of old sacks. In some of the trenches the 
shelters were more elaborate, and varied from an almost 
shot-proof retreat to a simple tent, made out of two raw 
cow skins stretched over bamboos. 

These wild camps, amid a still wilder country, sug- 
gested the conventional "brigand's retreat." The only 
evidences of a gentler mood were provided by a dis- 
carded concertina and by a letter I picked up on the 
roadside. The letter was from a Boer wife at the home 
farm to her husband in the trenches. As we passed 
along the road we met with many evidences of a hurried 
flight. The dead horses were very numerous ; and left by 
the roadside, with traces cut, were carts, light spider-carts, 
water carts, waggons, and such cumbrous impedimenta as 
wheelbarrows and a smith's forge. One waggon had fallen 
headlong into a donga in the dark, and was an utter wreck. 

H 



98 A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH. 

At last, on mounting the summit of a little ridge, we 
saw before us a wide green plain of waving grass, and 
beyond the plain and under the shelter of purple hills lay 
the unhappy town of Lady smith. Ladysmith looks very 
pretty at the distance — a cluster of white and red roofs 
dotted about among trees, and surmounted by the white 
tower of the Town Hall. 

The military camps were placed at various points 
about the town. The first of these camps was that of the 
gallant King's Royal Rifles. They had made some sort 
of home for themselves on the side of a barren and stony 
hill. They had, of course, no tents, but had fashioned 
fantastic shelters out of stone and wood and wire. They 
had even burrowed into the ground, and had returned to 
the type of habitation common to primeval man. Among 
the huts and burrows were many paths worn smooth by 
the restless tread of weary feet. The path the most worn 
of all was that which led to the water tanks. 

The men themselves were piteous to see. They were 
thin and hollow-eyed, and had about them an air of 
utter lassitude and weariness. Some were greatly 
emaciated, nearly all were pale, nearly all were silent. 
They had exhausted every topic of conversation, it would 
seem, and were too feeble to discuss even their relief. 

Ladysmith was reached at 2.30 p.m., and the food 
convoy did not arrive until late the same evening, so 
we had the sad opportunity of seeing Ladysmith still 
unrelieved — unrelieved so far as the misery of hunger 
was concerned. I had no food at my disposal, but 1 
had fortunately a good quantity ol tobacco, which was 



.1 JOURNEY TO LADY8MITH. W 

doled out in pipefuls so long as the supply lasted. It 
would have taken many pounds, however, to satisfy the 
eager, wasted, trembling hands which were thrust fOr- 
ward on the chance of getting a fragment of the weed. 

The town is composed almost entirely of single- 
storey houses built of corrugated iron, with occasional 
walls of brick or cement. In the suburbs of the town 
these houses are made as villa-like as possible by 
means of verandahs and flower gardens and creepers. 
The main street of the town, however, has no preten- 
sions to beauty, and is merely a broad road with corru- 
gated iron shops on either side. 

On walking into " Starvation City " one's first im- 
pression was that of the utter emptiness of the place. 
Most of the villas were unoccupied, were closed up, and, 
indeed, barricaded. The gardens were neglected, and 
everything had run wild. The impression of desolation 
was accentuated by an occasional house with a hole in 
its roof or its wall due to a Boer shell. All the people 
we met were pallid and hollow-eyed, and many were 
wasted. All were silent, listless, and depressed. There 
were no evidences of rejoicing, no signs of interest or 
animation, and, indeed, as I have just said, Ladysmith 
was still unrelieved. Nearly every shop was closed or 
even barricaded. Sign-boards showed that here was a 
coach-builder, and there a grocer. The chemist's shop 
appeared to be empty of everything except the coloured 
water in the large bottles in the window. Such shops 
as were open were dark and desolate. 

There were many grim evidences of better days. 



100 A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH. 

Thus one restaurant presented, among other cheery 
signs, the announcement of " Meals at all hours." 
Another establishment was gay with placards of " Ice 
creams." Notices of groceries of all kinds for sale made 
radiant a shop which was empty of everything but a 
table and some rough chairs. 

Such was the aspect of the weary town. Streets 
empty of all but a few tired and listless men, stores 
without goods, shops without customers, a railway station 
without passengers, a post-office without letters, stamps, 
or post-cards. No words, indeed, can fully describe this 
city of desolation, this little colony of the almost hope- 
less, this poor, battered, worn-out, hungry town of 
Ladysmith, with a bright summer sun making mockery 
of its dismal streets. 

The wretchedness of the place was not mitigated by 
the horrible smells which greeted one at every corner, 
nor by the miserable, dirty river which crawled slimily 
through the place. 

We left the town about 5 p.m., and met on our way 
back the long convoy of waggons with food. It was 
dark when we reached the river by Umbulwana; and as 
it was dangerous, and, indeed, impossible to cross the 
drift except in daylight, Ave outspanned by the river 
bank, and made a pretence of sleeping. 

When yet it was dark on the following morning the 
mules were put in, and with the earliest streak of dawn 
we crossed the river and made for Colenso. The waggons 
were still toiling onwards towards Ladysmith. 

The road, as I have said, was very rough, and the 



A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH. 101 

poor cart, which had served me well for three months, 
began to show signs of giving out. It broke down at 
last, one of the wheels coming to pieces. We were then 
some seven miles from Colenso, and the vehicle was 
beyond all repair. So it was left by the roadside 
among other wreckage, a forlorn relic of what was once 
a smart " 'bus." Our very scanty luggage was packed 
upon the mules' backs, our remaining food was dis- 
tributed among the passers-by, and we proceeded to 
walk to Colenso. From Colenso we travelled to Chieveley 
by a casual goods train, sitting on the floor of an open 
truck, as there was no guard's van. We reached 
Chieveley on Saturday at 1 p.m., tired and dirty. 




loi! 




XXVIII. 

A STRAGGLER. 

HE photograph which is appended to this 
paragraph was taken during the course 
of our journey to Ladysroith. The scene 
is on the north bank of the Great Tugela 
below the waterfall, and close to the 
pontoon bridge by^which the troops had 
crossed on their victorious march. Sitting 
in the sun on a pile of timbers, which the engineers 
have left, is a typical straggler. His company has moved 
on to Pieters, and he has fallen out somehow and some- 
where on the march, and is following the lost column 
as best he can. 

The day is hot, and his jacket is thrown across his 
shoulders. A small cloud of flies buzz over him. He 
is tired, dirty, thirsty, and hungry. Fever has taken 
hold of him, and he is — as he would say — feeling " a 
bit thick" He is sitting by the river bank to await 
the first waggon across the pontoon on which a conductor 
will give him a lift. In the meantime some good 
Samaritan is getting him a drink of water from the 
stream. 




A STRAGGLER. 



Face p. 02. 



103 




XXIX. 

HOW \ SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA CROSS. 

N December 15th was fought the battle of 
Colenso, on the morning of a brilliant 
summer's day. At dawn the men had 
marched out eagerly and in keen spirits, 
and with a swing of the shoulders which 
told of a certain victory. Before sundown 
they were beaten back, more than a 
thousand dead and wounded were lying on the field, the 
hospital tents were crammed to overflowing, and the 
waggons, which were prepared to move forwards, were 
moving back. 

The small hamlet of Colenso, battered, empty, and 
woe-begone, stands on the south bank of the river, and 
clings about the railway as a homely, unpretending little 
settlement made up of a few corrugated iron cottages 
on either side of a single street. 

It looks almost like a toy village, and its prim formality 
is tempered by a friendly growth of cactus, aloes, and 
mimosa, by a few trees and by many gardens. Behind 
Colenso is the veldt, which here extends southwards as 
a vast undulating plain to Chieveley, Frere, and Estcourt. 
Between Chieveley and the river the veldt is smooth, 
and is broken only by ant-hills, by a few Kaffir kraals, and 



L04 HOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA CROSS. 

by the precise line of the railway. The plain is green, but it 
is not the luxuriant green of England, and in the early morn- 
ing and about the time of the setting sun, tints of yellow 
and brown and pink spread over the wold and render the 
place strangely beautiful. 

During the glare of noonday the veldt gives simply 
a blinding sense of scorched and faded green, and its 
monotony and its boundlessness and the utter lack of 
shade and variation make the expanse dreary as a desert. 

Beyond the village the brown torrent of the great 
Tugela tears seawards between high banks and under 
broken bridges, and among the debris of pitiless ruin. 
Across the river are the bare, stony, trench-lined kopjes 
and hills held for so many long weeks by the Boers. 
About the foot of these bastion-like ridges is the squalor 
of a neglected camp, and on all sides are rifle pits and 
trenches and stone shelters and hidden holes. Man 
seems on this river bank to have gone back to the 
savagery of the cave dweller, and to be once more crawl- 
ing on the earth. Beyond these low hills are the grey 
heights of Umbulwana towering over Lad3'smith. 

It was to the right of Colenso that the battle raged 
fiercest on December 15th, 1899. It was here that 
Colonel Long's batteries of field artillery were surprised 
by the enemy and were abandoned after a hideous 
sacrifice of horses and men. It was here that Lieutenant 
Roberts received his fatal wound, and it was here that 
Babtie won the Victoria Cross. 

The batteries were moving towards the river with 
the usual British unconcern, and in the quiet of a 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF COLENSO. 

In the foreground is the body of one of Col. Long's 
horses. To the right is the Mimosa Croue in which 
the Boers hid. The flat-topped hill to the left is 
G'obler's Kloof. 

Face p. 104 



fftfll I SURGEON WON TBE VICTORIA CROSS. 105 

summer's morning. Suddenly there was poured upon 
them from the shelter of a mimosa wood such a torrent 
of lead that in a few moments there was scarcely a horse 
or a man standing. The men faced the wood as only 
the British soldier can face death. The gallant attempts 
made to save the guns led only to further loss of life. 
Colonel Long had been shot down, some fifty horses had 
been sacrificed, and the scanty ranks of the English were 
thinning rapidly. Still the cry went up, " Hold fast to 
the guns!" and when the last forlorn hope had been 
attempted and had failed, the green veldt was littered 
with the wounded, the dying, and the dead. 

Near by the guns was a donga, and into this many 
of the wounded had crawled. The galloper who took up 
the news of the disaster reported the need of help for 
the injured. To this call Major Babtie, R.A.M.C., at 
once responded as a volunteer. His duty did not take 
him to the battlefield. He rode down to this Inferno. 
He might as well have ridden before a row of targets 
during the smartest moment of rifle practice. Three 
times was his horse shot under him before he reached 
the donga. Here, in the face of a galling fire, he dragged 
the wounded into shelter, and a little later he ventured 
out under a rain of lead to bring in Lieutenant Roberts, 
who was lying in the open desperately wounded. 

For some seven hours Babtie kept by the wounded 
in the shallow donga, no one daring to lift a head above 
the edge of the dip. He alone had a water-bottle, and 
he doled out what water he had in a 60-minim measure- 
big glass. He was also able to relieve pain by morphine, 



106 riOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA GROSS. 

and when not otherwise occupied he sheltered poor 
Roberts's face from the scorching sun by holding above 
it a letter he chanced to have in his pocket. It was 
not until darkness was setting in that it was possible 
to venture from the scant shelter the donga provided. 

The scene of this heroic act was a level stretch of 
green veldt lying between the river and a brown road 
which led with many desultory turns to Hlangwani. To 
the left were the village and gardens of Colenso, and to 
the right the grove of mimosa trees in which the Boer 
force was hidden. Beyond the river rose the enemy's 
entrenchments and the grim ridge of Grobler's Kloof. 

The last time I passed over this spot was on the 
day after our cavalry had reached Ladysmith. It was on 
a day of peace. The sky was cloudless and no breath 
of air stirred along the grass. The bodies of the horses 
belonging to the lost guns were lying in a long line 
across the veldt. Their bones were as white as are the 
bones of museum skeletons, for the vultures and the 
ants had done their work thoroughly. The hides were 
still drawn over the bleaching bones, and round the 
necks of these ill-fated beasts were still the collars and 
the harness by which they had dragged the guns into 
action. There was an absolute stillness over the whole 
scene. To the left a train was being shunted at 
Colenso Station with leisurely persistence, for the day 
was hot and the sun dazzling. To the right were the 
mimosa groves, glorious with yellow blossom, in the 
shadows of which the Boers had hidden. It was 
strange that it was from these dainty woods that the 



HOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA GROSS. 107 

hellish fire had poured forth which laid low so many 
gallant English lads, for on this quiet day the trees 
were busy with complaining doves. 

By the banks of the donga, which had been for a 
whole summer's day a valley of the shadow of death, 
a Kaffir was crooning over a concertina, from which 
came a lazy dirge-like music. 

The railway engine, the doves, and the rapt Kaffir 
were the sole moving objects in this garden of peace, 
and in the blue distance was the ridge of Grobler's 
Kloof, no longer belching fire and shell, but standing 
out delicately against the tender sky. 

No brave deed had ever a gentler setting. 




108 




XXX. 

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI." 

HE Glory of the World," as the soldier 
sees it, can be understood by most of 
us. There is the glory of having served 
his Queen and his country, and of having 
done his duty like a man. There is, 
probably, the glorious memory of some 
great charge and of the storming of 
some stubborn trench. And there is the home-coming, 
made glorious by the ringing of bells and the waving 
of flags, by a march through familiar streets and through 
shouting and cheering crowds, with the rattle of drums 
and fifes, with hurrahs and yells of welcome for the 
regiment he loves so well. A home-coming like this is 
worth many days of hardship, many a Spion Kop, and 
many a dull week in a hospital tent. But it does not 
fall to the lot of all. 

I remember at Chieveley one morning before breakfast 
watching a solitary man approach the hospital lines. He 
was as melancholy an object as ever a war has produced. 
He was a soldier who had fought at Colenso, at Vaal 
Krantz, and before Pieters, and he was now staggering 
towards the hospital a ragged, broken-down, khaki-coloured 
spectre of a man. He dragged his rifle along with him 



"SIG TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDL" 

his belt was gone; his helmet was poised at the back 
of his head ; his frowsy tunic was thrown over his 
shoulders; he was literally black with flies. His clothes 
had not been off' for many days, and he had missed the 
ambulance, he said, and had walked to the hospital. 

How far he had come he could not tell, nor could 
anyone gather how he had fared or where he had slept. 
All that was evident was that he was wet with dew and 
had spent the night in the open. He knew that for 
vague hours he had been making his way, with ever 
faltering steps and failing eyes, towards the red cross flag 
on the crest of the hill. And now he had reached it. 
As to why he had come : " Well ! he had a touch of 
the dysentery," he said, " and was about played out." 

Poor lad ! this was a sorry home-coming at the last. 
A squalid ending of a march ; staggering in alone, a 
shuffling wreck, without a single comrade, with no fifes 
and drums, no cheering crowd, and no proud adoration 
of mother or wife. He was helped to a bell tent and 
put to bed on a stretcher, and on the stretcher he died ; 
and this was the end of his soldiering. Sic transit gloria 
mundi ! 



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